The Jew And The Carrot

Searching for a Perfect Bagel Across the Pond

By Molly Yeh

  • Print
  • Share Share
Molly Yeh

My last day in London, after a gloriously fattening week of Eccles cakes and Bakewell tarts, was a Sunday. Because it was a Sunday, I naturally required a bagel, per tradition.

Having left for my summer European excursion as an Upper West Sider, I’ll admit that my initial reaction to nearly all of the bagels I came across on my trip was that of interest but with a slightly raised nose. In Berlin and Amsterdam the bagels were dense bread rolls in the shape of a bagel — good but not what I crave on a Sunday morning with shmear. Perhaps I should have spent my energy and time seeking out the best bretzeln and pannekoeken. But, as I traveled westward, towards London, my bagel pursuits paid off.

A quick Google search for “best bagel in London” yielded one place: Beigel Bake, on the bustling restaurant-lined street of Brick Lane, in the once predominately Jewish area of East End. Family owned since 1977, open 24 hours a day, super cheap… bingo! Though I didn’t really have time to make it there and back in time for my flight, I risked it because bad things happen when I don’t have bagels on Sundays. And when I had to slow my sprint down Brick Lane to a crawl due to the massive crowds browsing the food stalls on the street, I nearly gave up.

In that moment, a passerby described a certain bagel as “the best thing he’d ever eaten.” I had no choice but to power on.

When finally I arrived at the Beigel Bake (the Polish word is pronounced bagel), the line out the door, which apparently exists at all hours of the day, often bringing together the late night clubbing crowd, should have made me turn immediately away so that I could make my flight but it only made me more determined.

Just shy of four pounds (or about $5.80), a medium fast moving line through an industrial-type ambiance reminiscent of H & H (R.I.P.), and quick service got me their version of a British specialty: hot salted beef, or corned beef as it’s called Stateside, piled perfectly with a thin layer of yellow English mustard on a warm, sweet, doughy, chewy plain bagel. It was shockingly good and terrifying in the way that my love for even the best New York bagels is now just slightly tainted.

The “secret” to their bagels, according to one member of the Cohen family, who opened the Beigel Bake after another family member learned to make bagels in Eastern Europe, is that their bagels are boiled before baking. While this method might seem like a no-brainer for a bagel aficionado, it’s not something you typically find in England, where a bagel on every street corner is far from the norm.

One month later, that bagel continues to keep me up at night. The way my teeth sunk perfectly, without a fight, into the bagel and the beef. The juicy tenderness of that beef. Each bite a balance of salty, sweet, and mustardy acidic that I didn’t even know could exist. Oh bagel glory, I never wanted it to end.

I washed it down with a flakey Eccles cake and a respectable lox and cream cheese bagel, and then brushed the crumbs off of my face as I braced myself for the dirty looks I’d receive for being last on the plane. Having felt like I’d just ran a marathon, I slipped into a dreamy food coma, and carried on with my trip.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: London Bagels, Beigel Bake, Bagels

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.