At around six in the morning, while most of us are still asleep, you’ll find Stephan in a café basement in a small Palma alley, sleeves rolled up for work. It’s not where you’d expect to find an authentic (and impressive) American bagel machine, but you probably wouldn’t expect to find traditionally made bagels in the Mallorcan capital either. Welcome to the appropriately named Bagel café.
Life has changed a lot since psychology graduate Stephan left his 12-year set-designer career at the Cape Town Opera House. Taking a trip to Europe, he spent a year in Paris, working in housekeeping at the home of the former Iranian prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar. “That’s where the hospitality seed was planted,” Stephan says. Back in Cape Town, he met Andrew – who was on holiday at the time – through friends. They became a couple and entered into a civil partnership in Cape Town’s British Embassy. “We weren’t allowed to have our photo taken in front of the Queen’s portrait!” Stephan recalls.
Andrew had lived in his native England for 20 years before moving abroad. He worked in airline IT reservations systems in Madrid and Nice, before settling with Stephan in Cape Town for a decade, to run their own successful small guest house/hotel in the fashionable Green Point suburb. “It was a really interesting time,” Andrew says. “The difference between South African and European small hotels is the standards. We had only five rooms but it was like a small 5-star hotel with all the amenities. What set us apart was that we did it in a very personal way.”
Having lived in France, Stephan always wanted to return to Europe: “The crime is quite bad in South Africa and we had some bad experiences. We decided we needed to feel safe.” Spain was one of the countries that accepted civil partnerships and they initially looked at moving to the Costa Brava area, around Barcelona or Sitges. By chance, they found Bagel privately advertised online for sale.
“It was a beautiful little picture and we put it onto the computer desktop,” Stephan says. Three years passed before they could sell their hotel but when they contacted the café owners, they discovered that a sale had fallen through and it was still on the market: “It was meant to be.”
Without having visited the island, they moved to Mallorca and in February 2012 opened their renovated bijou café into something charming and unique, with Stephan’s designer stamp all over it.
They make a variety of authentic (boiled before being baked) bagels on the premises (and are the only ones to do so on Mallorca), and offer a small but tempting menu mainly of filled bagels, wraps (during warmer months), and sweet items. In the autumn and winter months wraps are replaced by hearty soups, served with a fresh bagel. The food menu is 100% vegan (including sweet items) and everything is made and prepared by Stephan. However, a non-vegan cheese and dairy milk/butter are available.
Bagel is also a great place to come for an illy coffee: “Andrew is a master barista – he’s brilliant,” Stephan says, telling me that many German clients return again and again, saying that theirs are the best cappuccinos on the island.
Stephan and Andrew are so impressed with the illy philosophy that they have a fully stocked illy shop within Bagel, catering for all coffee needs. They sell ground coffee, Iperespresso (the illy capsule system), coffee machines, and coffee accessories. During winter months their coffee fidelity card prize draw offers prizes ranging from illy art coffee cups to an Iperespresso coffee machine (worth 200 euros).
Andrew and Stephan (who grew up on an ostrich farm, eating meat three times a day) became vegans in January 2013, prompted by the TV documentary ‘Earthlings’. At Bagel, they are catering for the needs of like-minded people as well as those who simply appreciate good-quality freshly made food in a charming setting in the heart of Palma.
Stephan and Andrew’s free time is spent exploring Mallorca’s countryside and villages with their two small dogs – or just resting. That’s early morning starts for you . . .