Beigel Bake (159 Brick Lane), plain bagel 25p salt beef bagel £3.50, 4/5
Beigel Shop (155 Brick Lane), plain bagel 25p salt beef bagel £3.40, 3/5
The first Jewish area in London wasn’t Golders Green, Stoke Newington or Hendon but Brick Lane. As a self-confessed bagel addict with an average bagel consumption rate of 15/week, I had to make the pilgrimage to the two oldest bagel bakeries in London: Beigel Bake and Britain’s First and Best Beigel Shop. I love the way the word is spelt. It has a similar confidence and authenticity to the spelling “yoghourt”.
Both of these venues operate 24/7, which means it’s perfect to satisfy any bagel craving. Yes that’s post-clubbing salt beef bagels, sleepless night cinnamon raisin bagels, weekend lunch smoked salmon bagels and weekday breakfast buttered bagels. Being a purist, I take my bagels plain, with expensive continental butter but this time I tried the famous salt beef sandwiches too so I can compare the two shops.
As indicated by the longer queue, Beigel Bake is the superior venue. The bagels themselves are more moist, dense and sweet. However, the texture was quite doughy and didn’t quite match the quality of the Golders Green stalwarts. The prices on Brick Lane are a lot cheaper though. Plain bagels are 25p rather than the North London pricing of about 35-40p. Salt beef, like Doner meat, isn’t really that nice when you’re sober. If I had to choose, though, I’d choose Beigel Bake’s. It’s greasier but more moist and not too salty. When you have a good authentic bagel, it absorbs the juices of whatever filling you put in it and makes it really delicious anyway.
I wouldn’t rule out Beigel Shop altogether. The bagels dry out fast, but are fine when eaten fresh. They’re still miles better than supermarket bagels, and the shorter queue means a quicker fix.