If the online reaction to Best Ugly’s opening last week was any indication, bagel-loving Aucklanders have apparently been crying out for a place like this for a while. Ever since the short-lived Wolfem Bros on High St closed a few years ago, we have been forced to watch jealously as our Wellington mates post instagrams (or should that be ‘foodstagrams’) and tweets from the glorious institution that is Wholly Bagels. I even brought some back to Auckland on the plane once; unfortunately they’d dried and hardened into rocks by the time I got back.
I went off bagels after returning from New York a few years ago and realising that nothing here could rival the mouthwatering range of flavours and fillings on offer there. I tried making my own; they were okay. Sometimes we buy them from a small stall at the Avondale Market on a Sunday. They’re $5 for two packs and are pretty close to what I would deem ‘the real thing’.
But now there’s Best Ugly – a new bakery and store from the unstoppable Al Brown, located in the City Works depot on the corner of Wellesley and Nelson Sts, just up the road from Victoria Park. City Works was once called Rhubarb Lane – that particular development failed and the prime piece of real estate is now home to some rather hip eateries, a craft brewery and a blow dry bar.
Anyway – back to the bagels! Best Ugly’s are Montreal-style, which means they are sweeter, skinnier and smaller than their New York counterparts. They are boiled in water and honey and then cooked in a cavernous woodfired oven, in keeping with tradition. This gives them a beautifully crisp outside and fluffy inside.
Not surprisingly, the Montreal vs. New York rivalry is highly contentious – the (biased, in this instance) New York Times took a more in-depth look at the differences here.
We here in New Zealand are more accustomed to the bigger, chewier, more savoury New York versions. I certainly prefer the texture of Best Ugly’s Montreal bagels, but the downside was that when paired with savoury ingredients the sweetness (or lack of salt) seems to translate into a loss of flavour. Nothing an extra sprinkling of sea salt wouldn’t fix though!
Best Ugly’s menu is small but well-executed. There are four types of bagels available: sesame, plain, poppy seed and cinnamon & raisin. These can be bought in packs ($12 per half dozen, much pricier than the Avondale Market), or served toasted with a wide range of toppings featuring high quality New Zealand ingredients. I recommend the lox, capers, red onion and cream cheese on a sesame bagel (with a tiny bit of extra salt), and the Whitestone cream cheese and Te Horo jam on a cinnamon and raisin.
The bagels are baked onsite throughout the day, so they’re always fresh and in plentiful supply. It would be nice to see them expand their range to include my personal favourite the ‘everything’ bagel – but perhaps that is the New York fan in me that I just can’t shake.
Best Ugly Bagels
Cnr Wellesley and Nelson Sts, central Auckland
Ph: 09 366 3926
© thebakingof 2013