Once upon a time we all knew to head for London’s East End for an authentic bagel. There are still some serious contenders out east, but there’s a new destination for fans of the roll with a hole.
London’s NW1 postcode (which takes in grungy Camden and leafy Primrose Hill) is the new bready mecca. There you’’ll find a world of bagel varieties that includes the traditional London-style version — slightly softer, sweeter with a decent level of boiled chew; as well as the more recently arrived New York recipe — bigger, more savoury and more of a work out for your molars.
These three bagelries are all worth a pit stop:
Newly opened on the stretch of Camden High Street south of the tube station — opposite Marks and Spencer — is B Bagel. The bagel bakery/sandwich shop is the fourth outlet for the infant chain with a range of based on their London-style bagel.
There’s a decent range of bagels (baked on site) with flavours ranging from plain through everything and sesame to cinnamon raisin and chocolate and a wide menu of filling options. (I picked the sabich — roasted aubergine, hummus, tahina and hard-boiled egg with a decent harissa kick.)
Smoked salmon — which you can also buy in packs from their well-stocked fridges — is from Goldstein’s — which gets a big tick in our book; and the cream cheese options include labneh with olive oil and za’atar. There are also (non-kosher) chicken schnitzel and shawarma as well as a tuna melt and a long list of vegan fillings.
A Nutella bagel smothered with strawberries was a big hit with my sweet-toothed teen – who had already woofed down one savoury bagel.
The website revealed a family connection to North West London stalwart, Roni’s Bagel Bakery, so there’s a bound to be some sort of bagel baking pedigree. Best of all they’re reasonably priced.
A short trot north up Camden High Street to the Stables market and you’ll find the newest member of the growing family of The Good Egg outlets. On the menu is a list of top-notch filled bagels — salmon and lox; roasted sweet potato with date jam, feta, mozzarella and zhoug; and (a non kosher) Reuben stuffed with salt beef all sound amazing.
And it’s a whole lot more than a simple bagel eatery, with an all-day menu that mashes up a little bit of Ashkenazi with full-on Sephardi flavours which include shakshuka with preserved lemon yoghurt; babka French toast with labneh and blackberry bay syrup; aubergine shawarma and — the top of my wishlist, knafeh, the hot cheesy, syrup-soaked Middle Eastern dessert.
If you’re not in a carb-fuelled coma by this point, then another 10-minute stroll across the railway bridge into the salubrious streets of Primrose Hill you’ll find New Yorker, Dan Martensen’s It’s Bagels.
The deli style shop with a few seats serves up authentic New York style bagels in a range of flavours and a good amount of schmears — the essential cream cheese topping that is generously slathered on both sides for that essential Insta-ready image. The bagel range includes pumpernickel, poppy, salt and onion as well as the usual suspect. On the lox menu (which is available to take home in pots) is horseradish, jalapeño and lox.
They serve up a smoked whitefish salad, which is a favourite of many Jewish New Yorkers and a deli speciality that you won’t find in many corners of London, so make sure to sample some while you’re there. It’s not cheap at £10 for 200g but less than a flight to the Big Apple.