Aidha Cader checks out her favourite local bakery and finds out what makes it special
“Go to Holey” is my current answer for anybody who asks about a good place to pick up bread from. It’s true that I’ve been on the hunt for an authentic neighbourhood spot where the food is fresh and the view is breath taking. Without a doubt, Holey Artisan Bakery has become our Friday brunch hangout with family and friends. Sipping freshly brewed coffee while eating warm flaky feta filled croissants that melt in my mouth, the choking metropolis just beyond the walls become a faraway fantasy.
If you’re looking for quality food and ambiance there is no place that matches Holey Artisan Bakery. Tucked away at the end of Road 79 facing the Gulshan Lake, a sprawling garden with a Mediterranean style café selling freshly baked, hot breads, pastries, pies and cakes with an array of coffees, it is the place to visit. It has gained popularity in a relatively short time span and this prompted me to sit with Sadat Mehdi, restaurateur and co-owner of Holey to ask him what makes this bakery a cut above the rest.
“The concept of an artisan bakery is new in Dhaka,” he explains. This prompted Porag, his wife Lillian and Sadat to seek out Maurice, an artisan bread baker from the UK, to setup this venture. Artisan bakeries often use age-old traditions in an open kitchen, using only the finest quality ingredients to create bread baked in a stone lined oven. This is very different than any machine made, mass-produced variety.
There is a science behind the reactions of the ingredients and the environment for breads to develop to perfection. These invariably affect the final product in texture, colour, quality and the amount of holes it has. The large holes in the bread inspired Lillian to name the bakery Holey. “Control of the fermentation process and the action of natural bacteria can produce anything from a light delicate flavour to a deep, strong, rustic flavour,” he further adds.
A sweet baguette is perfect with butter and jam or sourdough makes for a great sandwich with meat as well. The staff is knowledgeable about pairing the various types of breads with the perfect accompaniments and are eager to assist their customers. Often we sit at a table outdoors and enjoy a crusty baguette sandwich with roast beef and caramelised onion chutney, enjoying the blend of flavours and textures. The Tuscan baguette, with olives, fresh basil and fire-roasted onion together with tuna-mayo is also good for lunch. If you’re on the run, try their almond croissant or Pizzaiola, a bagel topped and baked with cheese, tomatoes, onions, anchovies, olive oil and herbs. For a taste of a local classic, the vegetarian Bengal Turnover with a hint of spice is excellent to whet your craving. The chocolate brownie is intense and with a cup of espresso it becomes the perfect way to finish off the afternoon. By midday the place gets quiet busy and often the lack of seating makes the garden the idyllic picnic ground.
To run such a niche concept, profit cannot be the only important driving force. “It was the passion that drove us into this venture.” explains Sadat. Being in the restaurant industry since 2010 as co-owner of Izumi, he knows the key in running a successful food business is to keep the customers coming back for more and insists that consistency in quality is the main factor. “The location is undoubtedly an added benefit but I am confident that even if we were selling our goods elsewhere in the city, it would be just as popular,” he confirms.
The partners are personally involved in maintaining quality and standards in sourcing ingredients, menu planning and adopting the HACCP hygiene guidelines at the bakery. “Any product on the shelf that does not look and feel the way it should is removed immediately” adds Sadat.
Sadat and his partners have plans to expand the bakery into a restaurant serving classic dishes from different parts of the world. Currently, they have Spanish chefs who are working under the guidance of Porag to create a diverse range of cuisines that will be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “We are still at an experimental stage with the restaurant,” says Sadat who is looking forward to open this aspect within the same premise.
Thanks to the likes Holey Artisan Bakery, many Dhakaites are now able to indulge in this simple pleasure in a delectable way.