Tales of Bad Bagels

I like bagels. No matter what dodgy cafe I’m in (“New!!! Cappochino Machine!!!! Real coffee’s!!!”), bagels are usually a safe bet. I say usually, because I’ve had some bad bagel experiences. Let me share them with you.

Raglan I

This was my first bad bagel experience. It’s not as bad as the others, but as it was my first, it seemed the worst.

I was staying in Raglan and I went to a cafe for breakfast and ordered a toasted bagel with jam. When it arrived I was taken aback. For a start, it was white and bagels are normally a golden brown colour. And unlike proper bagels it didn’t have a hard outside, it was soft. I took a bit and realised that what I had been served as not a bagel, but a donut-shaped bread roll. Real bagels do not have any fat in the dough, and are boiled before they are baked. This was obviously just made from standard bread roll dough, and had not been boiled first.

But it tasted ok, so I ate it. However, as I moved onto the second half I noticed a sliver of onion stuck to the side of it. It appeared the grill hadn’t been cleaned between doing a heart attack breakfast special and toasting my bagel.


In Wellington over summer, I stopped off at a supermarket to pick up a few things for lunch, including a bagel. I walked over to a park and sat down to eat.

Now, because bagels are boiled before they are baked, they get a sort of glossy, shiney surface. The bagel I had bought was, like the first Raglan bagel, made from regular bread roll dough, but it had also had a glaze applied to the top to give it the appearance of a regular bagel. There were even dribble marks where it had run down the side.

I stared at it for a while, unsure of what to do with it. It reminded me of those t-shirts that have a tuxedo printed on them. It’s not the real thing, and shouldn’t pretend to be.

Raglan II

An absolute bagel classic is with lox (smoked salmon!) and a schmear of cream cheese. I was at another Raglan cafe and ordered that for brunch. When it came there was instead a bagel with smoked salmon slices and cream cheese. However, rather than a schmear of cream cheese, there was instead a one centimetre thick slice of cream cheese.

Who made that? What were they thinking? Did they think they were making a smoked salmon cheesecake, or an eskimo pie bagel? Did they think smoked salmon tasted really bad and were trying to drown out the flavour with enough cream cheese for a dozen bagels? Or perhaps they thought I needed more dairy in my diet?

Whatever the logic behind the cream cheese behemoth that was lurking between the two bagel halves, I wasn’t going to eat it. I removed most of the cream cheese, and rebuilt it with just enough to taste good with the bagel and salmon. It wasn’t too bad.

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