It still blows my mind that someone has managed to make bagels cool in 2013, but I suppose if anyone was going to do it, it was going to be Al Brown. He has the kind of food empire us budding food empresses dream of having; the TV shows, the excellent hospitality establishments, the books, the olive oil, the branded butter, and the bagels. His he claims are Montreal style; slightly sweet and different to those hailing from NYC.
There's no doubt Mr Brown is very good at what he does. I wonder if it's the attention to detail, or the exceptional staff, or the best-quality ingredients that does it. The bagels I knew in my youth were tough and overcooked and served in the cafes I worked at as a teenager with either cream cheese and jam, or smoked salmon, or scrambled eggs. Then in Wellington through my uni days there was Wholly Bagels, stuffed with salad and what-not, and just ok. There was also that magical Sunday morning a couple of years ago when I made them.
But Best Ugly, Al Brown's bagel joint, in the reasonably new City Works Depot in the city, does cream cheese and jam, and cream cheese and salmon, and more, and about a thousand times better. Some people I know have said they're just bagels, while others have quipped at the price being a little steep. There's also that ever-prevailing anti-white-carbs brigade, who probably also have plenty to say. But if you're in need of a quick and tasty lunch, this place is awesome. The city has in the past, particularly on weekends, been a black hole of places to eat, or get a good coffee, but the Havana coffee served at Best Ugly is consistently excellent. They are open 7 days until 3pm, and their website is loaded with recipes, if you want to buy a bag to take home (available at Farro too).
At the moment their bagel of the month is the Weinberg, served with slow-roasted vine tomatoes, mozzarella, rocket and basil, and lemon and oregano oil. It's like a cross between a really good pizza and an insalata caprese and it's absolutely the tits. So good, so great with a coffee, so good sitting in the sun, solo or otherwise.
Best Ugly / City Works Depot / Corner Wellesley & Nelson Streets, Auckland