Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery, London

Do you remember the interstitial sketch from Monty Python where John Cleese would say, “And now for something completely different ?”

That seems like the perfect way to start off today’s post. Because today I am moving away from South Africa to tell you about the few brief days we spent in London. And I am not going to talk about the very important but nevertheless depressing things that I have talked about for the last few weeks. No mention of rape. or murder. or bombings. or anything like that.

No. Today’s post will about something completely different: bagels .

These weren’t ordinary bagels, though. They weren’t even spelled normally.

Rand and I found ourselves in Brick Lane on a rainy Sunday. We’d just come from the Columbia Road Flower market and started walking, with no real idea where we were going, and that’s where we ended up.

The neighborhood feels a little like Brooklyn – it’s quirky and hip, with narrow alleyways and buildings constructed from – what else? – dark red bricks. Despite all our visits to London (we must be nearing a dozen now), we’d never been in this part of town.

We strolled, impervious to the rain (it’s one of the few superpowers granted to those who live in the northwest), passing shop after shop selling bagels, advertising them with the rarely-seen alternate spelling of “beigels.” Some of the signs made me giggle, because I am secretly 12 years old.

I mean, come on: everything said “HOT SALT BEEF ALL NIGHT” in giant letters. I couldn’t not laugh at that, people. I’m not made of stone.

Rand noticed a large line gathered outside one of the shops – the very alliteratively named Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery – and gravitated towards it.

“I need to check that out,” he said, and promptly got in line.

The place seemed to sell only one thing – fresh bagels, sliced open and filled with “hot salt beef” (which turned out to be what we would call corned beef. If that’s something you’ve never had, think of it as being like pastrami, but moister, sliced thickly, and minus spices like peppercorn), and a slap of tangy yellow mustard.

(Note: further research suggests they also serve cream cheese and lox on their beigels. but the salt beef seems to be their most popular seller.)

A few minutes later, he emerged, bagel in hand.

It wasn’t entirely dissimilar to a New York bagel, though there were differences. The center hole was virtually non-existent, and the bagel looked softer and lighter. More like a very fresh roll.

Rand took a tentative bite.

“Oh, my god,” he muttered, in such a tone that I was unable to tell if his reaction was positive or negative.

“What? Oh-my-god good or oh-my-god terrible?”

“This … this might be the best bagel I’ve ever had.”

I ripped it from his hands and examined it. Theoretically, I should have hated it. I take my bagels with cream cheese and some smoked salmon; they are not to be used as sandwich bread, ever. I didn’t know what hot salt beef was at the moment, but was fairly certain I wouldn’t like it. And I generally hate yellow mustard.

But … the best bagel my Jersey-born husband had ever had? I had to take a bite.

And … holy cats, you guys. The bread was soft and chewy and absurdly fresh, but the exterior had a nice sheen and a bit of resistance. The meat was moist but not soggy, flavorful, and the tangy mustard cut into it perfectly.

I took another bite, before relinquishing it to my husband. The line out the front now made perfect sense.

“So?” Rand asked. “Isn’t it the best bagel you’ve ever had?”

Maybe. I don’t know. Like I said, bagels, for me, are best served with a light smear of cream cheese, and a bit of ice cold lox on top. This sandwich of his absurdly good – that was indisputable. But was it a bagel?

I’d have to say no. It was something completely different. But still pretty damn great.

This post made me smile. When I was younger, my sister and i were visiting relatives in England and we said we wanted a bagel. They had never heard of them, but we somehow found our way to this part of London. You are exactly right, they are not quite like NY bagels, but they are still tasty.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

I had no idea “beigels” were a thing. Combined with hot salt beef all night? Amazing. Alexandra Shiels

Man, this post reminded me of how much I missed bagels! Luckily, I’m getting my fix next month when I return to my birthland, NYC. I’m always interested to see how they interpret bagels in other countries and this sounds like something definitely worth trying. My favorite bagel place in college served everything bagels with avocado, tomato and swiss cheese and at 2 bucks a pop, it was especially helpful to my poor self at the time.

Love it. I visited a bagel place on Brick Lane when I was living in London. Not sure if it’s the same one but I thought the same thing. It’s a bagel but it’s different…I got mine with hot bacon and on a cold rainy day, it hit the spot perfectly. (Plus being slightly intoxicated might have made it tastier).

Beigel Bake is (or used to be) run by one of the Jewish immigrant families in the East End, so it probably wasn’t the one that served you bacon! ????

Easily distracted by ridiculous things today! I need to know…

What are the green boxes in the street in front of the murals?

Is someone saving a parking spot.

Love this post, but now I want one and I’m in New Hampshire, USA…
not gonna happen. 8*)

I’ve never heard of this place, and I’m from East London. Looks amazing. Will have to visit next time I’m there!

The boil before bake is important. Bagel Oasis does it, as does a couple other shops. You can find bagel shops in Seattle, best way to order is to ask “What’s warm right now?” and order that.

Bah, I meant you can find bagel shops in seattle that have windows so you can SEE the bagels being boiled.

I f*cking love these bagels. And they’re open 24 hours, unlike most of London, which makes them amazing late-night drunk food.

Agreed about boiling being KEY! Erin Walton

That place is a Brick Lane institution so I was told. I was specifically dragged there after a very beery night in East London and told it was a must, must see. And yeah – they’re pretty much the definition of fabulous, those beigels. Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)

There’s a bagel place here in Center City Philly that advertises itself as serving Montreal style bagels. They’re expensive, so I haven’t yet tested them.

When my father-in-law retired from being a chemical engineer, he and my my mother-in-law opened a bagel bakery in Pittsburgh. He approached learning the bagel baking process as a scientific operation, but the result was yum.

Beigel Bake does far and away the best bagels I’ve had in Britain, I can certainly vouch for them with cream cheese. There are supposed to be a couple of bagel bakeries in Golders Green, North
London that I need to find. I miss good bagels and look forward to getting a fix in NYC next month.

Suzanne, does your father-in-law still run the bakery? I grew up going to Bageland on Murray Ave but they closed awhile ago. I’ll be in Pittsburgh at the end of May and will willingly track down quality bagels!

Looks amazing! We’re in London in the next few weeks, we’ll have to check it out.
Have been reading your blog for a few months and loving it. Thanks for all the entertainment and travel tips – we’re on a 9 month trip around the world and seeing lots of the same places you’ve been writing about lately:).

I’m not a New Yorker, but I’ve somehow acquired their snobbery about bagels – I doubt anything that doesn’t come from the Northeast US.

But I still don’t think I’d be able to resist the “Hot Salt Beef All Night” sign.

If you go near there again find a restaurant called Tayabs (behind the mosque). It is amazing – similarly long line but totally worth it

This was delicious. thank you for writing about it.

I scarfed it up, then stopped at a bakery nearby and had a piece of cake.

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