61-69 Roslyn Gardens Elizabeth Bay, NSW 2011
|Opening hours||Daily 6.30am-5pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-9.30pm|
|Features||Licensed, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||0413 236 712|
Something thoroughly nice happens when a cafe takes up residence at one end of a retirement home, and plays host to a mix of young and old. The fact that Shuk Elizabeth Bay doesn't belong to one particular tribe also appears to have a civilising influence. There isn't the competitive athleisure parade that plagues so many cafes, nor the habit of sitting on one's laptop for hours on end that can send a business broke. Instead, people gather in small groups and talk, and eat and drink. They're nice to young and old, and pat each other's dogs. It's a miracle.
She-oaks and hibiscus cascade along the courtyard wall, as if you're in some quaint little village in the tropical hinterland. You're so not. Instead, you're the toss of a yoga mat downhill from the main drag of King's Cross, tucked away in the leafy enclave of the Trebartha Luxury Retirement Resort.
It's an unlikely place to open a cafe, but Shuk (as in "shook" not "shuck") has been a runaway success, ticking all the boxes for its privileged community. The wonky corner space is flooded with light, holding a mix of round and square tables, a busy back kitchen, well-stocked shelves of bakery goodies and a hidden private room that feels like you've been banished to solitary confinement.
Bondi's much-loved Israeli and Middle Eastern cafe has a proven formula that transplants easily to E/Bay: big, bright, vibrant platters of breads, dips, eggs, sandwiches and rolls, ferried to the table by young, breezy staff.
Chef German Sanchez builds great visual appeal into the food, and his Israeli breakfast for two ($23) looks like the result of two grandmothers fighting over who can feed you the most. The vast tray is over-populated with eggs any which way and pots of avocado, hummus, salad, granola and – I've lost count, it's all too much.
Besides, it's almost impossible to go past the shakshuka ($17) of baked eggs wreathed in rich, reduced tomato sauce with red capsicum, sweet spices, herbs and olives, with sourdough toast on the side. Add-ons include sliced sujuk (dry, spicy beef sausage, $4.50), chorizo, haloumi or wilted kale.
Hummus is rich and nutty, forming a blond pond around a crumble of spicy minced lamb, pinenuts and pickles ($20), with puffy round white flatbreads waiting on the side.
In fact, the breads from Shuk's own Bondi bakery are so good, you won't have room for anything sweet. Just kidding. Doughnuts ($3) are golden pillows of sugar-dusted nostalgia, and the traditional little rugelach pastry ($2.50) is like a plump, bittersweet pouch of pain au chocolat.
Beans are from the North Shore's long-established Bay Coffee Roasters, and the hearty, no-nonsense roast gives an upfront caffe latte with a pleasing cocoa nib aftertaste.
Given the demographics, there is everything from an espresso martini to a nice cup of tea – but you can't assume who's drinking what. Some of those elderlies are just hanging in until the sun's over the yardarm before they order a shiraz, and good luck to them.
Loving The easy, neighbourly mix of oldies, youngies and furry friends
Not getting The grey rings of my hard-boiled egg, a sure sign of over-cooking, and a rare fail.
Vegan factor Loads of vegan choices, including shakshuka with eggplant instead of eggs.
Overheard "That's way too big for one person." "No, it isn't."
Caffe latte $3.50/$4