The cheapest all night sandwich place in Shoreditch.
Open 24 hours and located at the bottom of East London’s busy Brick Lane, the Brick Lane Beigel Bakery is a staple for anyone who loves beigels. It’s overshadowed only by the fact that, two doors down, there is another bagel shop that is also open 24 hours. Competition is fierce, and this may be the reason that both shops have simultaneously perfected their main ware – the bagel.
The venue is fluorescently lit, with slightly dirty floors and a disconcerting mirror that meets you upon entering - sometimes, at 4am when you’ve succumbed to late night hunger, your reflection is the last thing you want to see. No matter the time of day there is nearly always a queue with all manner of people standing in it. There is no place to sit, but you wouldn’t want to.
It’s difficult, but fleetingly possible, to make friendly chit chat with the staff, but it’s even harder to get on a first name basis with them, as the purpose of this bakery is to usher you in bare handed and out holding a bagel as quickly as humanly possible. The women behind the counter are a wizened team, accepting change and passing bags with that smug confidence that comes only with years of experience. Peer into the back and you will see gruff men going about their business as seriously as a construction team on a ten story building. With a steady skill and expertise, these baking engineers seem like they were born making bagels. If you can catch them as they’re unloading and you ask nicely one of them might slip you a bagel from the freshest batch, which makes all the difference.
The counter is lined with baked goods, cakes, and treats, and above the servers’ heads are several rows of bread, including traditional challah and challah rolls. The bread is good, but no better or cheaper than your typical bakery, while the challah is not nearly as soft or chewy as it should be. Unfortunately, the quality of the baked goods is also never very good – probably due largely to the fact that they are plentiful without being in demand, so never particularly fresh. The baked goods and cakes are also expensive in relative terms when compared with the bagels. At £1 for a piece of none-so-fresh strudel, you’ll be drawn instead toward the smell of a bagel coming fresh out of the oven.
The bagels appear to be made hourly. As any bagel expert will tell you, they are traditional and perfect, crunchy on the outside but chewy on the inside. (Bagels should not taste like baguettes, and ones that do are a false version of the concept.) Because of their freshness and quality, a plain bagel or two is always a pleasant choice, and at 20p each, will not break the bank.
For just over £1 you can order a bagel with smoked salmon, for a bit more one with smoked salmon and cream cheese, and for a bit more than that you can have salad, which is not only salad, but cucumbers, tomato and lettuce. This is a particularly good deal for lovers of the tuna sandwich – one comes with salad for just £1.20. Among meat lovers a favourite is the salted meat sandwich, which is also the most expensive choice at £3.50. Salted meat is classically tastiest with a little bit of mustard, and the sandwich is usually made on site with the freshest bagel of the batch – making it well worth the extra £2 if you like cured beef.
Canned drinks, boxed juice and filter coffee or tea are on order at the Beigel Bakery, but they probably won’t blow your mind.
The Last Word
What the Brick Lane Beigel Bakery does very well are bagels – it is no exaggeration to say that these are the best in the city. As far as atmosphere, baked goods, bread, and nearly anything else is concerned, the shop is nothing special, but the superb quality and low cost of the 24 hour bagels rightfully make the end of Brick Lane a staple for any visit to East London.