Authentic Jewish bakers Bagel Bake has been going for 44 years, they always are in demand and usually have a queue. The famous cornerstone of East London’s kosher menu has been in constant supply and demand; they proudly are open 365/24/7.
I immediately got hit with a wave of history – the place comes across like it hasn’t changed since it opened. It’s a time capsule to a world gone by – they don’t take card, it’s cash only – and it’s a simple set up; Plain white tiles and basic lighting, a huge counter top spanning the shop floor and a queue out of the door. Everything appears clean and the attention is directed towards the menu high on the wall over the counter. It’s old school and I like it.
While queuing up the feeling was it’s a family run, hustle-bustle, hands on place, not a faceless corporation. The visible workroom and shelves behind the counters were abundant with supplies and stock. On the wall next to the menu was a picture of one of the owners, there is heart and even community here. I’d take a bet that the very low prices haven’t moved much either for years.
“. . . The salt beef did not live up to the hype. The meat was incredibly fatty and had a near gelatinous look. . .
Salmons and Salt Beefs
The food offers a range of baigels and pastries. Drinks are the usual standard cans of cokes and Ribenas and bottles of water. The quick glance I took at the menu and I knew I was ordering the two famous beigels – the salt beef and the salmon with cream cheese.
The salt beef did not live up to the hype. The meat was incredibly fatty and had a near gelatinous look, there was a good generous amount of (I’m guessing Colman’s) mustard and gherkins thrown in. Stuffed on top of the beef, the gherkins balance on the outside of the bagel while you hold it at a 90-degree angle to keep it all in.
That’s not the worst thing in the world unless you’re eating at a place where there’s no dining and it’s given to you in a paper bag, not a plate/plastic box. This leads to you chomping down on a lot of gherkins while the meat slides out of the bagel. Once you’ve gotten through that you’ve got this salt beef that taste more like gammon. What you end up with is a very overfilled roll that you end up grappling with while walking down Brick Lane; lest you feed the pavement with a literal bread crumb trail. Do I sound like I’m expecting to be pampered here?
The salmon cream cheese was by far better, the ratio of salmon to cheese was dead on, and the softer, and frankly better tasting fish meat complimented with the cholla bagel. The bagel bread had a thick, soft texture. With the heavy, fatty salt beef this doesn’t mix to my satisfaction – I would be curious to try the salt beef bagel with a toasted bun as the crusty texture could have helped cut through the fat of the meat. For the salmon and cream cheese, the lighter feel of salmon mixes better with the beigel.
The staff were extremely abrupt, I certainly didn’t expect them to help me through any choices. God help whoever hesitates or stammers while ordering in front of those guys. To their credit though, they couldn’t have dealt with that queue any quicker or more efficiency. They dealt with my order so fast I forgot to order drinks. It’s clear they know how to bust a queue. In a famous destination with a perpetual queue, that’s always desired.
Perhaps I’m too much of a tourist, perhaps my desire for doing things for the sake of doing them is being too generous – sometimes those things co-exist – if asked whether you should go, the answer’s yes.
For what you pay this stuff isn’t too bad at all. I do get the feeling that the aim was quantity over quality. It’s a niche, little authentic corner of cultural heritage and I’d hate for it to go anywhere anytime soon. However, for the hype I’d expect a lot more. Don’t expect posh. It’s street food for the working-class community from a by gone age that holds its own in the modern world.
Do you like to see your queues busted? How crusty do you think a roll should be? Have you been to Beigel Bites? What did you think?