My very first bagel experience is one I remember as if it were yesterday. I was about 8 years old and had just arrived in San Francisco with my mum. Our family friend collected us from the airport and once we were all loaded into the car she flung a small bag of bagels over the front seat. I ripped right into the unfamiliar thick, dense, chewy circle of blueberry bread and have been eating them ever since, including many devoured on trips to New York City. So I know a good bagel. It’s not a bun with a whole in the middle. You shouldn’t be able to squish it between your fingers and have it bounce right back. Yet despite confidently integrating them into our menus, I wonder if it’s a skill kiwis have yet to master.
So when I sat down with Greg, the owner of Goodness Gracious, the first thing I asked, before I had taken my first bite, was if he had tried a New York bagel. The answer? No. Strange, considering he owns a string of Auckland’s most successful ‘bagelries’. I thought that would have been all part of the start up research. But once we began chatting I quickly learnt that Greg had an outward-in approach to business. Starting with the premises – finding a small space to mitigate the risks, such as a high lease, and then creating a concept that would work within that. Drawing from his hospo experience in Melbourne where he dabbled in the art of bagel sandwiches, he decided to be one of the first to introduce the concept back home.
After the success of their Eden Terrace store in 2014, they expanded into Parnell in 2017 and Takapuna in 2019, building a following of bagel lovers as they went. “We have our Goodness Gracious regulars, who have been coming in for 3 years, ordering the same bagel every single day. We have another ten recipes up our sleeve, but the current range has been so popular that we are worried we will disappoint people. I guess that’s a good problem to have!”
The Louie: Greg has had a bagel a day for 5 years, minus the Christmas Holiday – that’s close to 2,000 bagels. A true bagel sandwich connoisseur. So I started with his current favourite, the Louie. A crunchy toasted parmesan bagel sandwiches a thick, cajun spiced chicken breast with grilled cheddar, jalapeno aioli and rocket.
The Wilber: A punchy, hot, sweet pulled pork is balanced with a cool homemade crunchy slaw, topped with creamy aioli and a sweet apple chutney. We had this one on the gluten free bagel, a lighter bread which complemented the heaviness of the fillings. It’s unapologetically messy.
The Vege (vegan option on request): There is no skimping on the vegetarian option. A thick slab of Haloumi, piled with chunky tabasco and sundried tomato pesto, with a bed of relish and drizzled with aioli.
The Breakfast: Leave your Saturday morning eggs bene in Ponsonby and start the day with a tiered breakfast bagel of fried egg, streaky bacon, tomato, spinach, aioli and relish.
The Sampler: With a menu packed with so many tempting options, the sampler is a good choice for those who suffer from food fomo. Choose from the Cab, Kranksky, Classic, BLAT or the Vege. My favourite was the Kranksky, a Westmere Butchery Kranksky sliced over tasty cheese, crisp tomato,fresh rocket, aioli and tomato relish.
So, did the bagels from Goodness Gracious rival those from New York? I’d say so! They are pretty damn good. And just to prove it, they have earned a fine reputation among our international visitors, (pre covid) with a regular string of tourists needing their good bagel fix. l openly applaud them.
Greg and co don’t hang their success solely on their artisan creations. Back to Gregs outward-in approach, he appreciates the importance of the outside factors that drive the success of his business. Goodness Gracious is a loved local cafe to many and it is the relationships he and the team build with their locals that keep them in growth. Jared has been in the fan club for years. The staff always greet him by name, remember his coffee order, know what car he drives and what his weekend plans were the week before. It’s a local cafe run by locals for locals.
So what’s next? While it’s exciting to hear that Greg and the team are working on a few expansion ideas, the big dream is to make it to New York (pending Covid), so after 6 years in the business he can finally say he’s had a New York bagel.
Eden Terrace: 2A New North Road, Eden Terrace, Auckland 1021
Parnell: 109-115 Saint Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland 1052
Takapuna: 68-76 Taharoto Road, Takapuna, Auckland 0622