Red Art Gallery and Café owner Antony Stevens with some of the Best Ugly Bagels they are serving up from their kitchen. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Café scratches the bagel itch

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They may be called ugly but they are certainly one of the best bagels you’ll find in Nelson.

Best Ugly Bagels has landed at Red Art Gallery and Café thanks to bagel-loving owners, Antony and Suzi Stevens.

The Montreal-style bagels hail from celebrity chef Al Brown’s bagel business in Auckland and are “not your average bagel,” according to Antony.

They are punched, hand rolled, boiled in honey water, then cooked in a stone oven that is run on Manuka hard-wood.

“When I first had my Best Ugly, I was blown away,” says Antony. “Chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside – that’s the beautiful thing about these.”

The former Aucklander and Seven Sharp producer moved to Nelson with his family earlier this year for a change of pace, taking over the popular gallery and café.

And although he loves Nelson, he admits that he’d been missing chowing down on a decent bagel.

“Everyone loves a bagel, and we’ve always seen a niche for that here – even before we took over the business. A full bagel menu wasn’t being done in Nelson.”

The menu consists of a variety of bagels, and while they are baked in Auckland, they have added a “Nelson twist” on the toppings.

“We’ve tried to keep all the produce as close to Nelson as possible, with many of them being award-winning” says Antony.

These include Pic’s peanut butter, Moutere Fruits raspberry jam, Mountain Valley manuka honey, Chocoyo hazelnut spread and Marlborough Sounds King Salmon.

Antony says they have been “pleasantly surprised” at the response since launching the bagels last Tuesday.

“One of the most pleasing things is how many people in Nelson actually know about Best Ugly Bagels. They have been so well received and the trays always come back empty – so the hunch was right.

“And the great thing about a bagel is that you can have one at 8am in the morning or 4pm in the afternoon. They can be sweet, or they can be savory – for a little bagel they are very versatile thing.”

Antony says they are serving bagels from 8am and, paired with a coffee, they make a good breakfast on-the-go, and they are also looking at setting up an advance text ordering system.

“I see a real opportunity coming from this, and I think it will keep evolving,” says Antony. “I think we’ve only just scratched the surface.”