Walking throughout London, I saw signs offering “Salt Beef Sandwiches” posted in random deli-like places. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I also didn’t think they sounded that appetizing to bother trying until both my cousins, who currently are living in London, raved rather adamantly about them. After a rather ho hum dinner at a place that housed a collection of different food stand eateries, I was full but unsatisfied. so when they brought up this place which has the “best salt beef sandwiches”, my curiosity was set into motion.
When I walked into Brick Lane Beigel, I was unimpressed. It looked like a regular, non-descript bakery with an unremarkable selection of baked goods in the counters. What was even more disappointing was seeing them make a cup of coffee by pouring a couple spoons of coffee grounds into a cup and adding hot water to it. I didn’t even know any place served coffee like that anymore. There was a steady line moving through though, and everyone was ordering a salt beef sandwich.
Needless to say, even though we had just finished eating, since we walked all the way here, I felt like I had to try it. For full disclosure, my cousin did say this usually hits the spot after a night of partying when you’re drunk and hungry. I was neither drunk or hungry and it was only 9pm, but when London….
It turns out that English Salt Beef is essentially American Pastrami. The lady haphazardly sliced the brisket into uneven chunky pieces and stuffed them into a bagel lined with mustard. It wasn’t the prettiest looking thing, but I have to admit, it was pretty good. The meat was super tender, almost melt in your mouth, and although the bagel was mediocre, it was an ideal partner for the juicy beefiness of the brisket. It was pretty comparable to anything I would find in a New York deli like Katz’s or Carnegie.
The salt beef sandwich made me realize something about English food in that aside from fish and chips and bangers and mash, I’m not sure what English food is all about. I’m not sure if the English truly have a cuisine. Most of the food that I liked in London actually doesn’t have its origins in the United Kingdom. More often than not, its origins are in the English former colonies, like India and Hong Kong.
Needless to say, this salt beef sandwich was definitely one of the better things I had in London, so if you’re looking for something tasty albeit not necessarily as English as you would expect, I would definitely suggest hunting down one for yourself.
Brick Lane Beigel
159 Brick Ln.
London E1 6SB
PAFO Ratings for Brick Lane Beigel:
Ambiance 1 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3 stars