Whether you call them bagels or beigels these rolls with holes should always be made from a yeasted mixture that is first boiled and then baked in the oven. The general consensus is that they were invented in Poland around the beginning of the seventeenth century and brought to London by Polish-Jewish immigrants around the middle of the nineteenth century. You can buy bagels from numerous places nowadays, but the originals and best are still baked either by Jewish bakers, or are found in areas of London that were or are predominantly Jewish.
The two basic requirements of all bagels are that they should be chewy and should have a shiny crust. We tasted half a dozen bought from various bakeries and agreed that they were all delicious. See what you think.
Most Jews may have now moved from the East End, but thankfully the beigels haven't. You may no longer find the old lady sitting in front of Bloom's Kosher Restaurant on Whitechapel High Street selling beigels threaded on a pole (no pun intended), but you can still buy beigels a short distance away.
Starting in Brick Lane you will find the Beigel Shop and the Beigel Bake. The Beigel Shop at 155 Brick Lane pronounces itself to be 'Britain's First and Best Beigel Shop', dating back to 1855. They produce more than 7000 beigels a night, and sell them for 25p each. You can also buy them with a variety of fillings for about £1.50.
Two doors down at 159 Brick Lane is the Beigel Bake where the house specialities also cost 25p, or you can buy them filled if you're extra hungry and can't wait until you get back home. Both of these shops are open twenty four hours a day, so you can treat yourself whenever you feel like it.
Round the corner at 91 Middlesex Street (Petticoat Lane) is Kossoff. They originally set up business round the corner in Wentworth Street in the 1920s and I have memories of going there as a child in the 1950s. Their bagels sell for 35p each and the doughnuts are exactly as I remember them: light, generously filled with raspberry jam, and no hint of grease or stodge.
As Jews moved away from the East End and spread out to the suburbs, they opened bagel shops to cater for the local residents who didn't want to schlepp back east. Carmelli at 128 Golders Green Road is probably one of the most well known in North West London. You will pay suburban prices for their bagels at 45p each, but rest assured that everything is strictly kosher. They have been keeping Golders Green well fed since 1987 and are proud to have catered for the Israeli Embassy and the House of Lords.
Last year he and Alon Kubi opened a second branch, Roni's Bagel Bakery and Café, at 37 Belsize Lane, Hampstead. Their bagels cost 45p each, but why not spoil yourself with something else, sweet or savoury, washed down with a hot or cold drink, whilst buying your bread.
A little further out at 6 Church Road, Stanmore is Yosi's Boulangerie, but if you feel that's a little too far out into the sticks, why not try the Broadway Bagel Bakery at 92 Cricklewood Broadway, NW2?
It goes without saying that all the above sell more than just bagels. It's up to you to go along and see what you fancy. You may say bagel and I may say beigel, but they've all been tried and tested and come highly recommended. I'm sure you won't want to buy from supermarkets again once you've tried the genuine article.
If you know of another great bakery which sells bagels/beigels, please leave a comment.
We always walked from Bethnal Green to Whitechapel (a shortish walk) to buy our beigels (still can’t call them bagels), and proper Jewish cheesecake, in the bakeries there. They all had wonderful names.Then a bakery opened in Vallance Road (Blue and White Bakery) in the 1980s and I think has since closed. The Brick Lane Beigel Bakery make the wonderful beigels me and my family remember and at 25p each! We visited Sidmouth in Devon in the summer and a bakery there was charging £1.60 EACH for a plain ‘bagels’!! And they weren’t fresh.And they say London is expensive.
good guide as can never have too many outlets for decent nosh. especially a guide to where to find good bread, the jews are definately the best bakers & sandwich makers. wish Kossoffs was dominant as in the 70's they had shops all over & my best memory is the one on the corner of Eldon street in Moorgate. the window was filled top to bottom with filled rolls & boy, were they filled!!!!! nothing comes close, sadly....so far