To me it’s Sunday afternoon at Aunty’s, late night munchies and pieces of smoked salmon stuck between my two front teeth.
I am writing of the bagel.
This Jewish delicacy is the subject of many arguments: is it a bagel or a beigel? Were they invented in Krakow, Vienna or New York?
Well I’m here to settle the argument about local London bagels.
Forget Brick Lane, forget Golders Green: the only place to get a bagel is Roni’s of West Hampstead.
When my cousin was pregnant I made regular trips to Brighton with the 20 or so bagels from Roni’s she required each month. (They freeze well.)
If I’m visiting friends for dinner anywhere in South East England, I take Roni’s bagels as presents.
Actress Gertrude Berg is reputed to have said: “The bagel is a lonely roll to eat all by yourself because in order for the true taste to come out you need your family.
“One to cut the bagels, one to toast them, one to put on the cream cheese and the lox, one to put them on the table and one to supervise.”
Well, you are never lonely with a bagel from Roni’s, made on site.
Especially one with a good schmear* of cream cheese from the same place.
Roni’s bagels harbour the two most cherished characteristics of this 16th century delight: a chewy crust and a pillowy soft interior.
Indeed, I have had the fortune of nearly breaking my teeth on a particularly well-caramelised and tasty bagel bottom, on a number of occasions.
They are the friendliest, most comforting bagels you can find this side of the Channel and, I’m willing to bet, anywhere. (I will be testing this theory enthusiastically when I go to Vienna in February and New York in May.)
But let me pause for a moment to tell you about the heart-stopping, in so many ways, cream cheese.
It’s the kind that is so full of fat, it is hard to spread straight from the fridge.
This cream cheese has never known deprivation. It piles itself on your hips and invades your mouth with its rich, “zaftig”* goodness.
Let’s get down to brass tacks – I promised you reasonably-priced, so that’s what you’re going to get.
45p will buy you a plain bagel, it’ll cost 50p for the fancy onion, sesame and poppy seed ones.
Cream cheese is sold by weight in polystyrene cups, around £3 for a full cup.
Roni’s does also sell kosher biscuits, smoked salmon and alarmingly bright “macarons”, which explode into crispy shards with absolutely no flavour when you bite into them, but please don’t dwell on the extras…
I’m all about the bagel and cream cheese.
Info: Roni’s, 250 West End Lane , London , NW6 1LG , 020 7589 9080 http://www.ronisbakery.co.uk, nearest tube is West Hampstead
Tips: They stop baking the bagels at 3pm, so get in there before then if you want ’em fresh.
They sell bagels ready-filled with everything from the afore-mentioned cream cheese to salt beef and if you ask nicely they’ll toast them for you on the panini maker behind the till.
If you get there and can’t see any cream cheese for sale, don’t panic, they keep masses of it out the back.
PS Please feel free to argue with me in the comments.