London is a town divided by many a rivalry, from regional footie teams to east versus west, north of the Thames or south, but none is quite as divisive as the battle of the beigel in Shoreditch's Brick Lane. Does Beigel Bake or Beigel Shop reign supreme? Only two shops separate the two beigelries, but the line has clearly been drawn in the sand.
Naturally I had to buy a half dozen from each shop...for science, of course!
First, I'll break it down historically. The Beigel Shop's bright yellow sign is impossible to miss, as are the subtitles of it being Britain's first beigel shop, and it's establishment date of 1855 (which is a feat in and of itself). That makes Beigel Shop almost a full century older than Beigel Bake.
But older doesn't necessarily mean better, and loyal fans to the white signed-shop Beigel Bake will be quick to point out that their rival isn't a true to form Jewish Beigelry, as they sell bacon on their menu.
Beigel Bake also has the other factor being that it stays open a full twenty-four hours, so you can get your salt beef beigel fix at all hours.
All historical, operating hours, and kosher differences aside, which beigel comes out on top? The beigels at each are priced exactly the same, always have similar, labyrinth-esque queues wrapping around them, and both offer a slight view of the beigel-making process. So the only way to know is to have the two beigels square off in a beigel showdown.
First up was Beigel Shop. Once I wrapped my way through the queue, I was handed my bag of beigels. At first glance, the beigel looks like any other one I would buy, but perhaps a bit meatier in appearance. The beigel was still warm when I got it, just showing how fresh it was. The dough was spongey and soft, but with just enough bite to it to make it substantial. It does, however, sit like a rock in your stomach, and I could feel it settling in as I made my way over to Beigel Bake.
Beigel Bake had a tough act to follow...could it hold up?
As my stomach got to digesting Beigel Shop's offering, my feet made my way two shops down to Beigel Bake to start winding through their snake of a queue. I was handed my bag of beigels, but a stark difference between the bag at Beigel Shop and Beigel Bake is that Beigel Bake has their beigels pre-bagged, meaning my beigel this time was not quite warm. It was still fresh, as they constantly have a flow of new beigels coming in from their back kitchen. But since it wasn't warm, it wasn't as soft either. However, I did find that Beigel Bake did have a slightly stronger flavoured dough, which I really enjoyed. The dough had a crunch to the top, and was still light in the center.
So, what is my verdict? While both shops had pros and cons, I would go to the two for different reasons. If you're looking for a right-here-right-now type snack, then you have to go to the original Beigel Shop to get a warm one fresh from the back. However, if you're stocking up for the upcoming week, then definitely go to Beigel Bake, as there's had not only a slightly better flavour, but my leftover beigels lasted longer and held up better than my leftovers from Beigel Shop. So really, it comes down to both personal preference, and urgency of beigel.