When Mike Samaha visited Russ & Daughters on a trip to New York in 2018, he tried a life-changing bagel. He instantly fell in love with the culinary institution, and spent the next three years dedicating himself to replicating the bagels he tried on that trip.
Samaha got serious about his bagel business at the tail end of 2020, and opened up Mensch: a little shop on Crown Street. Samaha’s bagels are – just like at Russ & Daughters – crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
There are savoury bagels that come plain or topped with poppy seeds, fennel seeds or sesame seeds, and a salty-sweet blueberry bagel. There are just a handful of fillings on the menu: you might find gravlax and cream cheese; za’atar, toum, feta and tomato; crispy chicken with kewpie mayo and gochujang sauce; and steak with salsa verde and potato. If you want to keep things simple, you can opt for schmear of cream cheese.
Mensch serves Sample coffee and there might be sweeter bagel options on the way, as well as a vegan filling. In addition to achieving zero-waste status, Samaha is intent on running an ethical business. He’s aiming to be carbon-negative by 2031, and has outlined Mensch’s ethics on its website – everything from sourcing produce from suppliers who prioritise humane farming practices to being transparent about who Mensch works with.