Sunday, 13 February 2011
London - Beigel Bake
159 Brick Lane,
London E1 6SB
Salt beef beigel: £3.50
Pastries and small breads: £0.50-£1.00
Beigel Bake is one of the last remaining mementos of Shoreditch's Jewish past. Efficiently doling out dirt-cheap beigels (smaller, denser bagels), platzls (crisp and airy bread rolls), strudels and other heavy Eastern European baked goods at all hours of the day and night, it is one of the few places that is on the mental maps both of East London's hipsters and manual labourers.
At the weekend and around mealtimes, the queue stretches out of the door as London's hungry wait for their salt beef beigels. There is nowhere to sit in the tiny shop, which contains nothing more than waiting space and a counter with all of the goodies behind it. In the window, the counter holds great slabs of salt beef being carved by the brusque women who run the front-of-house operation.
Salt beef, for the uninitiated, is essentially that. Beef that has been boiled in brine and falls apart into tender and irregular chunks and slivers at the slightest touch. On a warm beigel, it is heaven, the cure for hangovers, hunger, and most other ills. The beigels are almost stickily glutinous and ever so slightly sweet, contrasting with the beef's no-doubt dangerously high salt content. It would be foolish to limit yourself to just eating a salt beef beigel from Beigel Bake when their other breads and pastries are so cheap, tasty, and hard to find elsewhere in London. Asking for strudel results in an enormous slab of flaky pasty filled with cinnamon and apples being slapped onto the counter. The onion platzls are light bread rolls with fried onions baked into the top of the dough; those on top are crispy while the ones that fell into the crevices are buttery and soft. You cannot make a bad choice, so go ahead and just point at the large bread baskets labelled with names that have too many consonants.
In London's ever-changing ethnic landscape, Beigel Bake (and its nearby neighbour and rival Beigel shop) has carved out a niche for itself amongst the tacky Bengali curry houses by providing good quality and cheap food for absurdly low prices a mere hop, skip and jump away from central London and the City. Having become a firm favourite across the class divides, it looks like Shoreditch won't lose its Jewish roots any time soon.