There’s absolutely nothing better than a fresh bagel schmeared with cream cheese. Humans have known that fact for centuries—ever since, according to legend, a 17th-century baker accidentally whipped up a batch as tribute to the Polish king. It has defined breakfast for Americans for centuries. Recently, it would seem as though the trend has made its way to Singapore’s shores, too.
The doughy treat was described by The New York Times in 1960 as “an unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis.” As appetising as that sounds, we can be thankful that the science of the bagel has evolved somewhat since then. Wild flavours abound—today you can sample a French toast-flavoured bagel alongside the eternally controversial blueberry bagel, if you’re feeling daring. Fundamentally, though, a bagel is a collection of a few simple ingredients—high-gluten flour, salt, water, yeast, and malt—lovingly brought together and boiled, baked, or both.
From trends like the rainbow bagel to classic staples like lox and chives, the bagel is an endlessly elegant answer to the eternal question: “What am I hungry for today?” The best bagel is flavourful and chewy, with just a touch of sweetness to the bread that leaves you utterly satisfied. But not all bagels are created equal. Of all the bagel shops to set up in Singapore in the past few years, only a few can reign supreme. Here, we’ve collected our personal picks for the cream (cheese) of the crop.
1 / 7
Chef-owner Jerome Lim and his team are best known for their restaurant’s gorgeous cuts of wagyu, but Meating Place should be equally lauded for the bagels they pull out of the oven every day. A huge hit over the circuit breaker period, the restaurant has continued its delivery-or-pickup model into 2021. Get a selection of six with a hearty array of spreads to match—Gila Garlic cream cheese, Magic Butter, or applewood-smoked barramundi spread, according to your preferences. Even better, their coffee is of Common Man stock, allowing you to quite literally make a meal of it.
2 / 7
Two Men Bagel House
Quite possibly the granddaddy of bagel joints in Singapore, Two Men Bagel House has been around since 2014, expanding to a respectable three outlets in the time since. It’s known for an artisanal process of spinning, shaping, and baking by hand, all to create the mouthwatering New York-style bagel that’s trucked out to the public fresh every day. Bagel House’s scrappy, upstart roots have resulted in some truly imaginative sandwiches, including the Elvis (candied bacon and caramelised banana jam), the Zoidberg (beet-cured salmon and alfalfa) and the Personal Best (peanut butter, spam, and hashbrowns). This one has a cult following and a tendency to sell out before noon, so set your alarm clock early.
3 / 7
A homegrown ‘bagelry,’ Able Bagel has quickly made a name for itself with a shapeshifting menu of rollicking twists on local flavours. Options are always sublime and everchanging, but past fan favourites include the Bol Is Life, a cheeky sendup of the celebrated Hong Kong bolo bun, and the Ahh Lemak, with a generous dollop of spicy sambal chilli spread across a coconut bagel. What’s more, Able Bagel consistently donates its profits to local charities and outreach programmes like Transient Workers Count Too and Project Love, so you know you’ll be able to do good while you eat well.
4 / 7
ONALU Bagel Haús
ONALU is beloved to the students of Singapore Management University, situated as the Haús is right in the heart of campus. A new fixture on the scene as of late 2020, ONALU is betting big on the trendy bagel approach. Their bakers immediately made waves with a series of “overloaded” cereal bagels, which paired wonderfully with the fresh desserts right out of the oven from partner bakery Gram.sg, which shares their space. Since then, they’ve settled into a reliable menu of delectable flavours, including the Somethin’ Fishy, with Norwegian Smoked Salmon and scallion cream cheese, and the Plain Jane, with two types of cheese and scrambled eggs. Grab a kombucha, floral tea, or freshly-brewed coffee to wash it down, and you have yourself a breakfast fit for a king.
5 / 7
The other big dog on the block, Schmear is in many ways the Capulet to Two Men Bagel House’s Montague. Located out along Sentosa Cove, the brand was founded back in 2017 by a pair of siblings transplanted from New York. The must-try at this establishment is undoubtedly The New Yorker, which consists of two fried eggs, melted cheddar cheese, and optional (but highly recommended) bacon. Or, if you’re craving an even more intense form of comfort food, there’s the ever-iconic pizza bagel option. Schmear is also well-known for their thin-crust pizza (including a chilli crab variety) and wide selection of craft beers. The large menu—and, most importantly, the quality of the bagel—make the trek out to Sentosa well worth it.
6 / 7
The Scotts Square branch of Wild Honey serves a New York smoked fish and bagel platter, a three-tiered gourmand’s delight with salmon pastrami, sesame bagels, and two types of cream cheese. That would be enough to convince any bagel-lover to give this place a try, but Wild Honey is far from finished impressing. A pet-friendly, award-winning cafe, it hardly needs an introduction—and the same goes for its bagels. Freshly hand-rolled every day, Wild Honey’s bagels are that perfect combination of crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Whether you prefer grain mustard Hollandaise, fried eggs, or capers on your bagel, this cafe has you covered.
7 / 7
Known for coffee that, in its own words, “brings the city to life,” it’s only fitting that Sarnies would have a bagel to match. A Telok Ayer hotspot known for its laidback atmosphere, Sarnies allows guests to customise a bagel breakfast plate of their choice, with an option called Pimp Your Breakfast. In addition to your bagel, you’ll get the option of items like home-cured bacon, smoked salmon, sautéed mushrooms, and avocado. For a less curated bagel, though, those looking to keep it simple can order the classic Smoked Salmon & Cream, generously topped off with capers and onions. It’s good enough to justify a weekend morning meetup in the CBD—enough said.