Sunday, 2 November 2008

the beigel chapter

my affair with cream cheese and bagels owes itself to a trip to chicago in 1998. during my undergraduate days in london i rediscovered them but as part of a chain called bagel factory. for a while i was addicted to sunflower seed bagels with honey, or peanut butter on granary, sesame seed with cream cheese and salmon or cinnamon and raisin with cream cheese. but as much as these were good what i really wanted was a bagel that was crisp on the outside but easy to bite of rather than be torn – and for this a bagel factory bagel didn’t play the trick. this is where london’s hidden gems come to play –

all over london are nondescript looking bakeries whose insides smell like they are an oven themselves. where through the open door you can see the baker putting the bread in to bake (or in the case of bagels, to boil)… with that in mind here is a short guide to good bagels in london.

beigel shop (apparently the oldest beigel bakery in london) is on brick lane. it is an east london institution and is open 24 hours. when i went in on a tuesday night at 10 pm the kitchen was as if it was early in the morning. rows and rows of dough, the smell of freshly baked bread and sadly a sold old sesame seed beigel rack. i settled on plain beigels (22p each) and rye bread (and a brownie which was more like a slice of heaven). the beigels went home in a brown paper bag and were my breakfast on the run the next day, split toasted, smothered with cream cheese and utterly delicious.

once again in east london jones dairy café served me a smoked salmon bagel. the waiter behind the counter cuts the bagels through the centre, butters them thick and then adds paper thin slices of salmon overlapping them. i asked for mine unbuttered and accompanied by a half pint mug of argentinean coffee (strong and hot after a roam around columbia flower market). even untoasted the bagel gave away easily to the bit and was scrumy with an addition of coarse black pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

in my old neighborhood in north west london roni’s bakery made some excellent bagel-wiches – cream cheese that set itself thickly in the fridge with salmon draped over. it was wrapped in cling-wrap and great on the run. i hear that north london is home to the best beigels outside the east end so there is a trip scheduled to happening bagel at some point.

notwithstanding every so often i get a craving for bagels from lox stock and bagel. this is a bagel deli on paseo village (a strip mall near my house in scottsdale arizona). its bagels rival its british cousins in size (i usually eat half at a time). mum loves poppy seed bagels and i love the american cinnamon and raisin ones. lox stock and bagel also do a dozen variation of homemade cheese. there is cream cheese with honey and almond whipped into it and berries too. we usually have a tub of plain lite, veggie and chives at home to spread thickly onto our bagels on sunday mornings. 

for bagels on the go london has a host of bagel chains from bagel factory to ixxy’s bagels to offer you all manners of bagel-wiches. but i can tell you now that as a rule of thumb if you see a small jewish bakery somewhere dash in to get a bagel. it won’t ever get better than that. and remember a bagel is a donut with half the guilt –