Saturday, 24 May 2014

Breakfast Series - Shouk Cafe Paddington

You can usually tell the popularity of a new restaurant or cafe by the amount of Instagram photos, blog posts and 'interweb' chatter that it generates. There have been times where I've been on my way to, or on my way home from a restaurant and noticed another blogger posting Instagram photos from the very restaurant I've visited.  In what must be a really positive sign for Paddington's latest breakfast hotspot, Shouk Cafe, I noticed that not one, but two blogger buddies had decided to pay Shouk a visit at the same time as me.  

We'd arranged to visit Shouk with a couple of good mates  on a Sunday morning, which is generally one of the busiest times of the week.  We love catching up with DruBoy and Thommo but over the years, we have grown accustomed to the fact that they are almost always late.  Thinking that we'd get to Shouk early and score a table for the inevitable queue started, we arrived right on time at 8:30am to an already full restaurant.  

Our request of a table for four was met with a wait of about ten minutes and as we stood around looking over the crowd, I spotted blogger buddy Melissa Loh and her SO.  I wandered over for a quick chat and found out two things.  One, when Melissa had arrived a short while before we did, the restaurant was mostly empty. Two, they were really excited about testing out Shouk.

I'd texted DruBoy to let him know that we were at the cafe and he'd responded in typical fashion to say that they'd be arriving soon and we'd hoped that they would join us before we were seated. Once a table had been arranged for us, we wandered through the newly renovated Queenslander and were completely surprised to see the huge 'grins' Druboy and Thommo, already at the restaurant and waiting for us. Unbeknownst to us, they'd played a prank and had pretended to be late, so our waiting out the front was unnecessary.  It was pretty funny, really.

We immediately apologised to the wait team and said we wouldn't be needing the newly cleared table after all, and joined our pranking buds and got to catching up.  While we were chatting, it became clear that Thommo knew part owner Guy Frawley from another life (which might have included singing, dancing and lingerie) and that she'd 'let the cat-out-of-the-bag' that I was a food blogger.  Oh well!

We were given our menus and it became quite clear that Shouk was not like any of the other cafes around town.  Co-owners Guy Frawley and Adi Shabtay have drawn in Shabtay's Israeli background and developed a Middle-Eastern inspired menu that is as interesting as it is unique.  With menu items with exotic names like shakshuka, latke stack and lamb shwarma, we knew that we were in for something a little different.  While the menu was quite foreign and interesting, the one consistent around the world is coffee, which was ordered for the table.  Having given up coffee many years ago, I opted for an interesting and refreshing glass of lemon and lime slushy.

With lots of exotic sounding options available, Thommo went for the grilled zucchini flowers and haloumi, which came presented on flat bread and looked typically Middle Eastern.  The haloumi was grilled nicely and worked nicely with the dill, mint and hummus that accompanied the dish.  Unlike DruBoy, who is a pescetarian, Thommo added some meat to the dish with a merguez sausage that was very spicy and a good foil for the fresh flavours from the zucchini.

DruBoy's corn and zucchini fritters sounded pretty similar to Thommo's breakfast but that's where the similarities ended.  There were two large and golden brown fritters covered in helping of vibrant red tomato chutney, that had just a hint of heat.  There was a distinct flavour of corn in the fritters but the zucchini was a little harder to pick out.  DruBoy found that the initial fritter that he ate was quite crispy but the second was a little soggy and not quite as enjoyable as a consequence.  While DruBoy enjoyed the fritters, he seemed to love the addition of garlic butter braised kale and the smoked salmon.

We were happy that DruBoy and Thommo were along to check out some of the more unusual breakfast offerings, we were back on safer ground when SC ordered her Eggs Benedict.  The eggs benne came presented on toasted challah and crispy bacon with sumac peppered hollandaise and the garlic buttered kale.  It looked quite lovely with the contrasting red of the bacon and sumac on the bright yellow of the hollandaise sauce. The perfectly cooked eggs exploded with bright yellow yolk which further added to the kaleidoscope of colours on the plate.  It was a really good traditional dish that was given a Middle Eastern makeover that worked a treat.

Moving onto even safer ground, I opted for The Jackson, which was essentially a big fry up of traditional breakfast fare.  The dish came standard with scrambled eggs, merguez saussage, crispy bacon, herb roasted tomato and garlic butter braised kale, but not being a fan, I replace the kale with some extra bacon and mushroom.  Boy was I glad I did, the mushroom served up at Shouk cafe is easily the best I've had, with a rich and earthy flavour that was enhanced with perfect seasoning and a hint of garlic, they were delicious. Everything else on my plate was lovely and I particularly enjoyed the bacon and the eggs, but I'll never forget that first bit of my mushroom...

As is normally the case when eating out with DruBoy and Thommo, we were lingering around and just enjoying each other's company.  Given it was so busy, we were happy to move to another, smaller, table when requested by the cafe. That's when we came across another blogger buddy, this time Instagram Blogger, AroundTheBendBrisbane, who was also in enjoying breakfast at Shouk with her SO.

There was something quite magical about our time at Shouk cafe, which was in large part because the place rocks.  We really loved the contemporary menu that was influenced by the Middle East and the friendly vibe that owners Guy and Adi have been able to create.  As busy as the restaurant was, the staff were all really friendly and engaged well with their customers and helped create a really positive energy in the dining room.

Shouk is one of those restaurants or cafes that come along every now and then and completely breaks the mould and does things differently.  It's really pleasing to see that in a dining market that's nearing saturation point, there is still room someone with an exiting and fresh idea to thrive.  Gauging by the number of foodies in on the morning we visited and the number of Instagram photos online, the boys are onto a winner and an instant Paddington institution.

The coffees were really good and extracted perfectly
The only gripe I had with the menu was - no smoothies!  I made do with a chocolate shake
The eggs benne looked amazing and was 'good eating'
I could have gone a bowl of those mushrooms on their own!
Adi stands proud and had a smile on his face all morning
Collingwood Street Paddington is now home to one of Brisbane's new hotspot cafes

Shouk Cafe on UrbanspoonShouk Cafe


  1. Oh wow! What are the sweet options like Anthony?

    1. Mimi, they look amazing, especially the panna cotta, which looks sensational. This place is just super busy all the time, so thats a good sign


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