Sitting al fresco at Orli in Borehamwood, it’s hard to believe that a town once described as ‘boring wood’ has suddenly blossomed into a thriving Jewish community. And there is no better reflection of the way Borehamwood has evolved than the once dark and cramped bagel shop that was successfully taken over by Nick Stern and his wife Stephanie two years ago, and subsequently transformed into the bright, welcoming Orli in the Wood of today.
Situated in the heart of Shenley Road, Borehamwood’s main street, Orli provides the community with its staple of bagels and challah.
Nick says the customers are loyal to Orli’s unique recipe of boiling its bagels before baking that makes the bagels deliciously squidgy, not to mention its award-winning challahs, which are known and loved far and wide.
Nick, who felt pangs of jealously when Orli was originally opened purely because he wanted it for himself, can now put into practice the vision he had for it. He has branched out into catering simchas, stone settings, lavoya, bris’ and baby blessings. He makes himself available out of hours to coincide with the ‘last minute’ nature of some of these functions. He describes Orli as a restaurant, deli and community centre.
Seen most markedly in the introduction of Story Time; a free activity for pre-school children between 3pm and 4pm on alternate Mondays, the rabbi’s wife reads a story and the children are provided with sandwiches and fruit, with Nick even doing the hokey cokey! He explains “it’s something we like to give back to the community.” Which he also applies when sourcing Orli’s fresh produce, Nick says “we try and give our business to local suppliers as another way of investing in the community.”
Orli’s Sunday afternoon tea is another welcome addition to the bakery’s growing repertoire, which also includes an on-site sushi chef, extensive deli with all your favourites, from smoked salmon to latkes and goujons. They even supply the lunches for local Jewish nursery Gilah. But, it’s the little touches that keep Orli’s customers coming through the door, from the Yiddishe humour seen on the menu to the guaranteed warm greeting of Shabbat Shalom every Friday when you pick up a challah.