Friday, 9 November 2007
Salt Beef Beigels, Brick Lane
Hello and welcome to my latest obsession - The Brick Lane Salt Beef Beigel. I feel the same way about these little beauties as I did when I first realised that the outwardly boring little pub at the end of my road actually turned out some of the best food in South West London - namely joy at the discovery, tinged with regret that it had taken me so long to make the effort to do so. God knows how many times I'd wasted the chance to try one whilst trooping up and down Brick Lane, dodging the hawkers for mediocre curry houses. A friend suggested the other day that if Boris Johnston added to his mayoral manifesto that every crappy curry house on Brick Lane had to by law post a sign on their front door reading "Just Go To Tayyabs", then even he'd vote for him.
Anyway, what's so special about salt beef? It's a fair question, and one I have asked myself until recently. It doesn't sound particularly appetising does it, salty beef. But try and imagine half a dozen generous slabs of juicy pink flesh, tasty rather than overly salty, bursting out of a georgeously soft fresh beigel (they churn them out at an incredible rate, so they will generally be very fresh), zinging with fiery English mustard and with a couple of gherkins on the side. There is a satisfying 'squeak' as you bite through the bread into the meat, from the unique texture of the preserved beef, and the fat in the meat oozes flavour.
Needless to say, there are numerous outlets in London purporting to sell 'salt beef sandwiches' that are actually just depressing mass-produced 'beef ham' and nothing like the real thing. Don't be fooled. In my (incredibly limited) experience, as well as Brick Lane the Brass Rail bar in Selfridge's Food Hall also does some great (if overpriced) salt beef, and I'm sure many people will have their own favourites.
Brick Lane is about 15 minutes walk from my workplace; the chances of me making it through the winter without a cardiac episode are diminishing rapidly. But damn it, the salt beef beigels are cheap, gorgeous and uniquely London. They are almost worth dying for.