Montreal 🇨🇦 to Dubai 🇦🇪: The Story Of Our Bagels

The story of our bagels is the story of two friends who share a passion for good coffee and bagels. Our backgrounds could not have been further from the culinary world: one of us is an electrical engineer by training; the other a former international civil servant who spent years working with the UN in conflict countries. At the time we teamed up on our Bagel Yard journey, our thoughts were mainly preoccupied with bringing great tasting bagels to Dubai along with great specialty coffee in a laid-back cafe setting.

A good day starts with coffee and bagels. That’s been our upbeat motto since Day 0, reflecting our positive take on things in life, and our approach to business. In fleshing out our vision for Bagel Yard, we drew inspiration from the long queues of eager and loyal customers — old and young, from different walks of life and cultures —  snaking out of Montreal’s bagel stores every morning, be it during the cold winter or those few hot-n-humid summer weeks (ok, we know we can’t compare to the baking heat of Dubai but still!).

To this day, bagels in Montreal are made the old traditional way just as they were before the onset of mechanized mass production; each and every bagel is hand-rolled, simmered in honey water, and then baked in a wood-fired oven. The end result is a bagel with a perfect little crunch, a slight chewy texture, and a hint of sweetness. You can’t beat that.

From the outset, we agreed that there would be no short-cuts and no effort spared in making sure that our bagels are on par with those made in Montreal. Style, taste and texture were all and everything. We also wanted our business to be Dubai home-grown; there would be no franchise or anything of the sort. In the autumn of 2016, one of us took a break from work to undertake a training stint at Montreal’s legendary St-Viateur — considered the city’s holy grail of bagel shops, churning out tens of tens of thousands of bagels a day across its different stores. We could not have been more grateful for the opportunity, more so that the training took place under the guidance of two of St-Viateur’s veteran bagel-makers.

Once back in Dubai ...

Once back in Dubai, we expected that our bagel-making would be a relatively smooth and straightforward process. We could not have been more wrong. In hindsight, the odds were in fact stacked against us: one need only think of the kind of havoc that high temperatures and humidity levels wreak on baking processes. But we wouldn’t have taken the plunge had we not been persistent and determined: for almost five full months, we worked day in and day out behind closed doors and hoarded windows, trying to figure out how best to navigate Dubai’s weather conditions and adjust baking methods to produce the bagels we have today. We could not have been more proud of the end result!

We will always be thankful and grateful to our small, but brilliant, team, who persevered along with us, never giving up hope or begrudging us ideas or encouragement. There were tears at times, many sleepless nights, and some moments of despair. We also had our fair share of laughter and were fortunate to develop along the way a spirit of camaraderie that held us together through those difficult days and in the months since. What mattered was that we made it to the ‘finish line’.

Since opening our doors to business on 1 November 2018, we have seen a steady growth in our customer base, the majority of whom we are happy to see walk through our doors time and time again for their bagel fix and cup of coffee to brighten up their day. 

Bagel Yard has been a once-in-a-lifetime journey, and we like to think that we have only taken our first steps. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished, and humbled by the positive feedback we’ve had from our customers.