Lunchtime. The Best Ugly Bagels, factory-esq bakery is in full swing. Rolling, shaping, boiling and baking, it’s all done in front of you. The orders flood in – ‘one Yodi’, the chorus of ‘Yodi’, chimes in. Whilst you wait for your order, there’s a sense of anticipation and excitement.
Compared to New York style bagels, these are different. Montreal style by definition, the bagels are baked fresh every day – hand-rolled and cooked in a custom-made stone wood fuelled oven. I should also mention we’re in Auckland, New Zealand, not Montreal. Using New Zealand Manuku hard wood, the end product is crispy on the outside, airy but chewy on the inside, with a slight sweetness after its bath in honey water (plus there’s no salt in the recipe).
Super Chef/Owner, Al Brown stumbled across the Montreal-style bagel over 25 years ago. After training at Montreal’s famed bagel shop, ‘Saint Viateur’, Best Ugly Bagels was unleashed onto the Auckland food scene 2 years ago. Starting at 6am each day, the bakery hand-make between 2-2,500 bagels a day, finishing at 1 or 2pm. Each batch of bagels taking approximately 20 minutes to bake.
There are no scales for the shaping and no temperature gauges on the wood-fire oven. The process is masterly dictated by instinct. By eye, by feel, by smell and by touch, the process is artisan and labour-intensive. But the details don’t stop there. From simple toppings like New Zealand jam, to house chocolate hazelnut spread and P.B.J, to free-range meats, and fancier ones like Stewart Island salmon, Zany Zeus cream cheese, red onion, capers, dill and lemon juice. Best Ugly Bagels list of suppliers has been carefully selected from the North Island.
Like so many artisan producers, Best Ugly Bagels face its challenges too. Selling their bagels in delis and supermarkets, it’s still considered a $12 bag of bagels, next to a $5 bag of bagels.
“Once we’ve got people in here and they understand, we create our own little fans. The key for us to get them in to have a look”
[Jeremy Coombes, Best Ugly Bagels]
“Not perfect circles, but perfectly tasty”
Put simply, good food, made from scratch, by hand, with a whole lot of love, takes time. There are no machines and nothing to hide behind. It’s only once you see the process involved, that you realize these bagels aren’t like the doughy cousins they sit next to. So maybe we should give more ‘ugly’ foods a chance.
A big thank you to Head Baker Angelo, Jeremy, and the rest of the team at Best Ugly Bagels.
Best Ugly Bagels
90 Wellesley St W, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
09 366 3926
Open 7am – 3pm, 7 Days