The duo of bak­ers be­hind Tart & Soul’s sweets want to be your cafe grand­mas.


Each morn­ing, Saf Haq and Lisa Brow come to work and ask, “What are we go­ing to make to­day?”

Whether they choose triple-layer mini cheese­cakes, gooey cin­na­mon buns or cheesy bis­cuits, the menu at Tart & Soul is con­stantly rein­vented.

The cafe and bak­ery opened in June on Coburg Road, where Spring­house closed its sec­ond lo­ca­tion. The small space is a home­spun com­bi­na­tion of whimsy and dorky. “It’s like you’re walk­ing into grandma’s house for tea,” Brow says. “She’s go­ing to hug you when you come in.”

You do feel hugged by the charm­ing at­mos­phere. There’s a cross stitch of the wifi pass­word (“tartlife”) at the counter. Small plants pot­ted in an­tique tins dot the ta­bles. There is a shelf that dis­plays a col­lec­tion of minia­ture baked goods, in­clud­ing tiny bagels and cook­ies. And al­most every post on the Tart & Soul Face­book con­tains a pun.

Haq and Brow have been a tightknit duo since they met in 2013 through the bak­ing and pas­try arts pro­gram at NSCC. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, they dreamed of start­ing a project that would give them com­plete cre­ative free­dom. While brain­storm­ing menu ideas, they leapfrogged to­gether to dif­fer­ent cafes and bak­eries. Haq and Brow were both work­ing at Two If By Sea when they saw an ad­ver­tise­ment for a quaint cafe-sized prop­erty in the south end and de­cided it was time.

In terms of creativ­ity, as long as it’s made from scratch, there isn’t much that Haq and Brow won’t try. “If it’s de­li­cious, then we put it on the menu. If it’s not, then we don’t,” says Haq.

Brow’s favourite dessert is the oreOMG—a cheese­cake disk hugged be­tween two choco­late short­bread cook­ies. With Haq as her wit­ness, she at­tests that they’re good enough to sneak from the bak­ing tray. Haq’s favourite menu item is the break­fast bialy. It’s a Pol­ish bread sim­i­lar to a bagel and tra­di­tion­ally stuffed with onion, but at Tart & Soul the onion is re­placed with egg, cheese, veg­gies and ba­con.

The pair’s baked goods are avail­able at sev­eral lo­cal cafes, in­clud­ing Weird Har­bour, Lucky Penny, New Scot­land Yard and An­chored Cof­fee. Part of Haq’s morn­ing rou­tine in­volves drop­ping off de­liv­er­ies to wholesale clients.

“It’s nice to be so con­nected,” Haq says about the cafe com­mu­nity. “It’s feels like we’re all hold­ing each other up.”

Many of the in­gre­di­ents and ma­te­ri­als Haq and Brow use are lo­cally sourced. An­chored Cof­fee pro­vides Tart & Soul’s medium roast, while Java Blend sup­plies the dark. The bot­tled cold brew is from Low Point, tea se­lec­tions are from World Tea House, and the ba­con in the break­fast bialy comes from craft butch­ery Ves­sel Meats.

As they ap­proach three months since the grand open­ing, Haq and Brow con­fide that— while this has been their shared dream for awhile—nei­ther started out with an affin­ity for bak­ing.

Brow says as a kid she fol­lowed her grand­mother around the kitchen by the apron, but it wasn’t un­til she took the bread pro­gram at NSCC that she re­al­ized she wanted to pur­sue bak­ing. Like­wise, Haq as­so­ci­ated bak­ing with burnt batches of Pills­bury cook­ies un­til she started mak­ing cook­ies for friends in univer­sity as a break from course­work.

For both, the best part of their day is cre­at­ing some­thing for peo­ple to en­joy. “There’s noth­ing quite like that feel­ing of be­ing able to give fresh bread that you made to some­one,” Haq says.

Brow nods and laughs, “See­ing some­one’s face as they bite into a cin­na­mon bun—I wish I could just cap­ture that.”


Bak­ing BFFs Saf Haq and Lisa Brow.

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