The Magnolia Bakery has just opened its first store in Abu Dhabi, and for the first time, the menu has more than just the sweet items we've come to love.
Savoury selections blossom at Magnolia Bakery in the UAE
Sex and the City fans will remember an episode from more than a decade ago, which had Carrie and Miranda gushing over cupcakes outside a New York bakery. Credited with launching a global cupcake craze, Magnolia Bakery has a newly opened branch at The Galleria on Al Maryah Island, right here in Abu Dhabi. It is also the first outlet in the UAE to offer savoury selections, a trend born in the region. Cupcakes, however, are still very much on the menu.
“The franchisee in Kuwait asked for it first because it was based on the mall’s insistence on adding savoury,” says Bobbie Lloyd, the chief baking officer at Magnolia Bakery, speaking from New York. “They are partners with the Beirut franchise, which also wanted savoury. As it happened, Beirut opened first – two months ago with the savoury menu – followed by Kuwait and Doha. The Galleria also requested a savoury menu.
“The cupcake for us as Americans has been around forever. I am of an age where my mother made cupcakes for me as a little girl and her mother did the same. The cupcake is not dying. For us, it’s always been a steady 50 per cent of our sales. It’s part of our culture,” adds Lloyd.
Perhaps the fact that a cupcake “bouncer” still guards the entrance of the original Bleecker Street shop in New York City’s West Village is testament to its tenacity.
Lloyd gives Magnolia’s franchisees in the Middle East a list of 10 dishes in each savoury category and allows them to make their own selection based on ingredients available locally or through its import channels. Fifteen per cent of the produce for the Abu Dhabi cafe is sourced in the UAE: tomatoes, beetroot, aubergines, radishes, spinach and spring onions, together with many herbs such as coriander, dill, mint and rosemary. The savoury menu covers egg-based breakfast dishes, salads, sandwiches and pastas for lunch and dinner, along with a daily soup and quiche special. The Niçoise salad and creamy salmon tagliatelle are proving firm favourites in the early days of operation.
The decision to branch out to savoury fare in the Middle East only is also based on sufficient space – the New York locations are too small to allow any additional production on site. The same rationale applies to the tiny Dubai outlet at Bloomingdale’s in The Dubai Mall, but as and when the UAE franchisee Al Tayer secures a second, larger location in Dubai, the savoury choices will feature there.
Can we expect to see savoury cupcakes? “I don’t call those cupcakes, they are muffins. We are an old-fashioned American bakery and to stay true to our concept we wouldn’t do them. We are, however, working on a savoury line of open-faced tarts for the Middle East.”
A relatively new craze taking over New York and gaining fans worldwide is the cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid invented by Dominique Ansel in May at his namesake bakery in New York, which continues to attract daily queues that form at dawn. A line of cronuts is not something Lloyd is considering. “He can only make 300 a day because other things have to go in the oven. So our ovens are filled with cakes, pies, cookies, brownies and cupcakes. Making something that has to rise or sit in a refrigerator for 24 hours is not possible.”
Magnolia Bakery, The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi. Call 02 674 9380 or visit www.magnoliabakery.com. Open weekdays from 7am to 11pm, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7am to midnight and Fridays from 10am to midnight
Samantha Wood is the founder of an impartial restaurant review blog, www.foodiva.net