Under the Grill: Larah Bross

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Bross Bagels has been serving up Montreal style bagels to the people of Edinburgh and beyond since 2017. Their modern, made-to-order Montreal bagels have become legendary for bringing a hole lot of joy to brunches and lunches from five shops across the city - Portobello, Leith, Stockbridge, Bruntsfield, and the West End.

Owner and founder Larah ‘Mama’ Bross unifies an appetising combination of her Jewish-Canadian background, and her experience living in New York, with her passion for locally sourced Scottish ingredients. Menus showcase a collection of deli classics alongside fresh, modern and playful twists. She joins us this week for Under the Grill, talking about her most memorable meals, avocado mishaps, and the inspiration behind the menu at Edinburgh institution Bross Bagels.

What is your most memorable meal?

I can remember exactly where it was - it was in my kitchen in the July of 2017 when someone brought round what they considered to be a bagel for lunch and I remember thinking, “I’m just not putting up with this anymore”, which gave me the prompt I needed to start Bross Bagels. We opened our first shop in August 2017 and I’ve never had to eat a bad bagel since.

What is your favourite kitchen tool/gadget?

If I was being honest, it would be my bottle cork, but I also have a very special love for the avocado opener. An idiot friend of mine once sliced his hand open trying to cut up an avocado to make guacamole at a baby shower. I mean usually those things are quite dull. I’ve taken great joy in buying him one of those for every occasion since.

What food could you not live without?

Wings. I have done some things I am not proud of for a plate of good chicken wings but you know… I love both of my kids... Hi Buffalo… Hi Barbecue!

If you could cook a meal for anyone (dead or alive), who would it be and what would you make?

That’s a difficult question because if you’re cooking for someone you really admire - you’d be so nervous about whether they liked it or not that you just wouldn’t enjoy talking to them. I’d be all “Ok, I get it – you’re really good at singing Gaga - now put the guitar down and taste my Matzah Ball Soup…”

So I guess I’ll stick with cooking for my family and I’d make them their favourite - takeaway pizza from Civerinos.

What menu item from Bross Bagels is your personal favourite?

The Mama Bross - Mama Bross' Famous Chicken Salad, Streaky Bacon, Lettuce, Dill pickles and Buffamayo.

Which Bross Bagel menu item would you recommend to someone filling their hole for the first time?

It depends on the person. I need to have an assessment of their palate first. Usually, it’s our classic Big Apple: Pastrami, Melted Jack Cheese, Dill Pickles, Mustard and Mayo on a Pretzel Bagel, but if they’re REALLY hungover: it’s gotta be The Goy: Bacon, Egg, Latke, Smoked Applewood Cheese, and my own secret Rock Sauce on an Everything Bagel.

How do you come up with new menu items at Bross Bagels? What inspires you?

They’re all inspired by my childhood favourites. Basically, what my Mum used to make, and what we used to get from the delis and bagel shops that I grew up eating. I try and take the traditional Jewish deli foods and recreate the Bross version.

What is your favourite Scottish produce?

That would be my partner Marc – he’s more Scottish than losing at football.

Haggis is also a favourite of mine - on Burns Day every year, we do a Rabbi Burns Bagel with haggis as the main ingredient and it sells out in the time it takes to recite the Selkirk Grace.

What Scottish food/dish is most underrated?

A few contenders here - Tablet. I had never before experienced something so sweet, that it makes your eyes itch. Square sausage - proof that Scots are indeed the inventors of the world. Only the Scottish would come up with something that not only makes the sausage more practical but annoys the English sausage purists too. Last but not least, a good old fashioned Scottish Trifle - a pudding so alcoholic, the cream is flammable. I had a portion the first Christmas Day I spent in Scotland and I woke up on Hogmanay in Shetland.

What Canadian foods/snacks do you miss the most?

Clamato juice which is like tomato juice but with clams in it - I mean it sounds horrible, but you’ve not had a Bloody Mary until you’ve had a Bloody Mary that contains shellfish. Scots will love it - they have strong stomachs - they eat things made out of stomachs - its right up your street.

Are there any foods or drinks you just don’t like?

Virgin cocktails. Not for me. Tried them - but what’s the point? It’s like decaf coffee. I mean each to their own but how do these people get through the day?

What is the most challenging ingredient to work with?

Probably me.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to start their own venture like Bross Bagels, what would it be?

Don’t open a bagel shop.

What meal would you choose as your last supper?

Bit of a morbid question. It’s not going be a Happy Meal is it? It would have many, many courses - 1006 by Nico, and friends. It would last for a week and one of the courses would be a cake big enough to have a helicopter baked into it so I could escape whatever fate was waiting for me before breakfast.

Bross Bagels recently opened a new bakery in Portobello, allowing for national delivery of their legendary bagels, and is set to open Bross Deli - a brand-new concept and their biggest shop yet, in St James Quarter later this year.

The first print issue of Taste Magazine Scotland will be available from the end of July. Join our mailing list for a free subscription.

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