Pom Pom Bagels & Illicit Burgers take-away shop is the latest addition to Lagos’ popular dining scene
When a new venue opens up in town, there are two different ways of finding out about it: you were told about it and are intentionally going to see what’s going on, or you stumbled upon something new that caught your eye. Sometimes, you are so enticed by the smells and the vibes coming from inside the building that you have to investigate for yourself. This is now happening to everyone who walks through the Lagos town centre and comes across the Pom Pom Bagels & Illicit Burgers take-away shop.
Katie Pomeroy and Kevin Keenaghan, partners in love and (most recently) in business, were sitting in a coffee shop when they observed something that became their first major insight into the business they are running today. “This place is so incredible, but it is such a shame that, like other businesses in town, it only runs seven to eight hours a day. How incredible would it be if we could have an operation running all day long?” The seed was planted.
Six months later, as we are talking, a new batch of bagels is coming out of a new industrial oven in all different colours and varieties, some with sun-dried tomatoes, others with onion and garlic or a simple original bagel.
Also becoming known as the “Bagel Lady”, Katie Pomeroy, a hard worker with “the dream of making planet Earth a better place”, started baking bagels because they didn’t exist in the Algarve. “They are a treat that my mum started to make a couple of years ago, and because I couldn’t find them in the supermarket, I just started making my own,” she recalls.
Bagels are a traditional Jewish bread from Eastern Europe, unique for their “chewiness and denseness”, and Katie opted to replace the honey for agave or sugar to make them plant-based. With her environmental concerns, the caring for others and the willingness to do something meaningful always present in her speech, Katie assumes the importance of “having local products, using biodegradable packaging and caring for both locals and tourists’ needs equally”.
As the morning unfolds, we hear the voices on the other side of the window ordering the “Vegan One”, a beautiful portion of roasted veggies and creamy hummus placed inside a fluffy bagel, or the “Breakfast One” where two eggs (and bacon) melt generously inside the bagel. Some opt for the only meaty choice, salted beef that has been marinating for seven days, and most gluttons end up taking bagels spread with chocolate or peanut butter.
When the sun starts going down, the flipping sign is swapped for Illicit Burgers, the soul music becomes more housey, the smells greasier and the sound of the burgers being pressed into the grill stands out from everything else.
Kevin, who has cooked burgers his whole career as a chef, is the first one to tell us that “having decided to split the business into two brands made it possible for each of them to become stronger”. As Pom Pom Bagels is the harmonious part of the business, sensitive, eco-sustainable and mainly plant-based, “Illicit burgers is the opportunity to be associated with street food, grungy and greasy, made to please those who just need a dirty burger in a handy location”.
Making sure he recalls a little bit of the smash burger’s history, Kevin exudes self-confidence and humour when talking about the business and its core strategies. “The smashing technique is something we should be more educated about, it’s actually how burgers started, back in the 1900s. I press the burger with the meat presser on the grill and it creates a crust, trapping the juices inside. This is huge in the US, Canada, Australia … but has not taken off here,” he clarifies whilst a perfectly crusted patty is coming off the grill.
With the slogan “Enjoy eating your burger as much as I enjoy making it”, Kevin admits to wanting the space as somewhere he’d go. “My target is someone like me, someone who loves burgers, very laid-back, who likes to socialise and who doesn’t take things so seriously in life.”
As the phone rings, someone orders two “Sticky Cowboys” and one “My girlfriend is not hungry”, proving how his efforts to have a funny menu have helped to engage with the customers. The 80/20 fat ratio patties are harmoniously combined with different ingredients like pineapple, in the “Confused Hawaiian”, or beans and jalapeños in the most Mexican version called “It’s Nacho Cheeseburger”. Chicken is also a very enticing option and vegans can count on a Beyond Burger served inside a bagel, as a fusion with the sister brand.
Two concepts, one space; two partners, one dream. A big possibility of having a mouth-watering experience in a place that lies in the heart of Lagos. Quick, approachable, all day long, hassle-free, Pom Pom Bagels & Illicit Burgers is a dream come true, not only for Katie and Kevin but also for those who want the taste, convenience and positive vibes all at once.
By MARGARIDA PIMENTA
Photos: Phaze Photography