Sunday, 8 August 2010

Brick Lane Beigal Battle


Alongside the Truman Brewery and curry houses, moustaches and cut off denim shorts, the Brick Lane bagel shops are iconic symbols of the East End. Since I first drunkenly stumbled across the appealingly low-fi joints in the early hours of the morning I have been a dedicated and loyal follower.

Whilst taking a visitor from New York on a gastronomical tour of the East (End) we decided a bagel pit-stop was a prerequisite. Upon reaching our destination I trotted automatically to the Beigel Shop (Britain's First and Best). The other official London tour guide veered towards the famous Brick Lane Beigel Bake.


Somehow, I had never before considered the potential dividing loyalties of the two East End institutions. Does everyone have their loyalties, or am I the only monogamous eater in a city of baking sluts?
I was soon carried away by ideas of Montague/Capulet style turf wars; Bloods and Crips; West (East) side story dance-offs- this last one somehow not as implausible as it should be considering Shoreditch.

Time for a bagel-off.

Beigel Bake v.s The Beigel Shop

On the Left, we have The Beigel Shop. This is the team I route for, and the only place I have bought a bagel since I discovered it. Sited as Britain's first bagel shop, it dates back to 1855. The two 'classics' are the salt beef bagel, and my bagel of choice- smoked salmon and cream cheese. I have very happy memories of this bagel shop. I have introduced it to so many of my friends and even the odd boy, back in the day. Once upon a time a friend even ferried a bagel in its distinctive little brown bag all the way across London for me (and he will have a place in my heart forever...)

The smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel costs a ridiculous £1.50. Plain bagels are about 12p. (I once carried ten of them back home with me.) Additional fresh lemon and pepper is also offered and the staff ricochet from mild and courteous to a little bit terrifying. The bagels are fairly small, but beautifully, artfully misshapen and fat.
As well as bagels, the shop also sells samosas and spring rolls for about 70p and a plethora of pastries and buns- including those jam and coconut things that I haven't eaten since school but dream about so often they have become almost fetishised.

The Brick Lane Beigel Bake

On the right we have the mighty Brick Lane Beigel Bake, the younger yet more famous neighbour. Very similar in menu, it also supplies smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels for £1.50, though serves little of the other fare that is available at the Bagel Shop. The staff, from my experience, are more than a little cranky- but I haven't been often enough for that comment to be fair. There bagels are also happily wonky but slightly glaze and no lemon or pepper was proffered.
The Biegel Bake's biggest victory is that it 24hour. Absolute genius and almost worthy of total bagel domination in itself!

The Results

= Beigel Shop
BLBB= Brick Lane Beigel Bake

We purchased our two Bagels (lemon and pepper/sheer terror) and took them to the tiny metal counter. They both looked fairly similar in size (1:1) though the BLBB has a glaze that looked suspiciously greasy. This was tested by placing them onto their little brown bags. BS left no stains where my suspicions were proved when BLBB left a greasy little rim (1:0).
The bagels were consumed. Both were equally generous with their portions of cheese and salmon (1:1) though (and now I'm being fussy) the salmon was pinker and thicker in the BS bagel. The dough is the most important factor of this equation and again the BS bagel received unanimous approval, being less chewy and softer, with a bit more bite.

The winner: Through it's general eating pleasure, the Beigel Shop won out, even in the eyes of my competitor, and our 'expert' opinion, fresh from the bagel shops of New York. Hooray for the old original wiping the Shoreditch hipster.
She did however suggest that a New York bagel pitted against a London bagel would be rather like 'a gun in a knife fight'.

Right- you know what that means... ^_~



  1. So "a London bagel pitted against a New York bagel would be rather like 'a gun in a knife fight'."
    So that means the New York bagel does not stand a chance! That will probably reflect the ludicrous amounts of additives and processing aids to be found in your average plastic products that masquerade as bakery in the USA.

  2. I used to stop by the BLBB when I first moved to London for a salt beef bagel after a gig, sometimes. Always completely successful at spilling half of it down my shirt eating single handed whilst driving, operating the steering wheel and gearstick with the other in an effort to negotiate the twists and turns of Aldgate, Bank, Moorgate, Liverpool St etc..

  3. My allegiance has completely changed. Now I will al;ways go to the yellow shop. But given this article, I am starting to crave New York bagels with a passion.

  4. Ooooh Peter, you are a funny bunny.
    Now I HAVE to go to New York to read the ingredients and maybe try even watch how they're made. It has been decided.

  5. I should point out that I think I said "a knife in a gunfight." or that was what I meant to say, anyway. while these were lovely, new york bagels kick their ass all over town.

    see, now it's like I've DARED you to come to new york. there shall be such a bagel tour.

  6. HOURS I spent toiling over that blog and all you kids can talk about is the fluffed up last line!!

    Bagel Tour. Helena. New York. Yes Please.

  7. yes & yes & yes & right now & yes. I should go & alert the bagels, though. so that they can prepare to meet you--they'd never forgive me if they were caught unawares. & one always wants to stay on good terms with the bagels.

    oh, and the rest of the blog besides the last line on which we've all fixated is lovely & wonderfully put together, by the way. seriously.