Like many great things in life, Lox in a Box came about by accident. Candy Berger was hunting for sites in Sydney to open a sit-down deli and base her catering business, Fed Kitchen. But then a fateful brainstorming session hijacked her destiny.
“My wife Gaia Lovell said to me, ‘Won’t it be great when we have the deli, we can call the takeaway boxes Lox in a Box?’ [Cured and smoked salmon is typically called lox in the US.] I looked at her and said, ‘Oh my god, you’re a bloody genius, Lox in a Box, that’s unreal.”
The quip made her change tack and she decided to dump the deli in favour of a bagel-and-schmear [spread] delivery service. One week later, Berger drove past a cute ex-takeaway shop with stained-glass windows and a retro vibe at Bondi’s Seven Ways and thought it could work for the business, so she arranged a time to visit. She took a tour with Lovell (who helps her run the business), and for the second time she changed her mind.
“We looked at it and could visualise it not just as a catering kitchen, but also as a retail space for our bagels,” she says. “The shopfront was too beautiful to board [up]. The [layout] was made for our concept; we couldn’t not open a [takeaway] bagel shop. It would have been rude not to.”
It seems the customers – sitting on benches under the glorious paperbark trees in front of the shop, eating bagels stuffed with lox and hot salt-beef – would agree.
The deli window is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only. That’s when punters can stop by to grab Jewish deli goods to take home – lox, schmears, egg mayo, pickles, chopped liver, Pepe Saya butter and more – as well as bagels made to order and babka (a yeast cake made from twisted dough, usually with chocolate or cinnamon).
The menu is short: there’s the classic lox bagel (salmon, herbed cream-cheese schmear, tomato, capers and onions); veggie (jalapeno schmear, carrot, beets, rocket, onion and cheese); and a salt-beef number with mustard and pickles. If you add on the crinkle-cut crisps and pickles your order is served in an open box, the sides nuzzled up against your bagel, which is cut in half with the cross-section facing up to show off the generous fillings.
The bready stars are sourced from nearby Wellington Cake Shop, where Leslie Brull has been making Hungarian baked goods – strudel, kuglóf, biscuits and bagels – for 40 years. “Leslie – he’s the best,” says Berger. “He makes fantastic bagels … [with] the perfect amount of softness and chew, unlike some bagels that hurt your jaw.”
Berger – who is Jewish and grew up in California (“Santa Barbara, where the closest Jewish deli or food was in LA, an hour-and-a-half away”) – worked for months with marine maestro Stephen Hodges from Fishface to perfect the house speciality, the lox. (Lox in a Box’s logo is a winking salmon).
“It lands from New Zealand on Monday, it’s in the curing kitchens in Rozelle by midday and it’s filleted and put in the cure that afternoon. A few days later it comes out of the cure, into the smoker and on the racks to dry. It’s sliced on Thursday and in Bondi on Friday,” says Berger.
The fish – caught sustainably at Mount Cook, in New Zealand’s South Island – is peppery, smoky and practically melts in your mouth. The grass-fed salt beef is made in-house too, based on Berger’s grandma’s recipe (“she hates cloves but I think they add an extra little element of flavour, so I throw them in”). Everything here is made using her grandmothers’ recipes (one is of Polish descent and the other German descent, she says). “Both Linny and nanna have cross-checked recipes and said we are good to go,” she confirms.
On Fridays, Lox in a Box focuses on traditional Jewish entrée fare: challah (braided bread), egg dip, chopped liver, pickles and lox – which are available to buy separately or in a pack. “We call it our ‘shabbox’,” she says cheekily, in reference to Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath which runs from Friday night to Saturday night.
“We noticed that most members of the Jewish community would rush around on a Friday picking up things from different places and most of them didn’t enjoy it,” explains Berger. “So we decided to just do it for them. We now put it all in a beautiful box and send it out to their homes and save everyone rushing around.”
Coming soon: more sides on the menu (cucumber salad, potato salad, house slaw and some chopped herring); special bagel selections; and the best bit, a bagel delivery service, which Berger – ever the punster – has coined their “deli-ver” service. “We will soon deli-ver to the CBD and hope to get our bagels out of Bondi and into the rest of Sydney,” she says. “For catering you will have the option to have your bagels pre-made, or we put it all in a box and you can assemble them yourselves.”
There’s construction happening on the footpath in front of the shop. It might be a little messy, but it’s business as usual. Delivery will be introduced very soon.
Lox in a Box
2/96 Glenayr Avenue, Bondi
Fri to Sun 8am–3pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on January 16, 2020. Menu items may have changed since publication.