David Adamson takes a trip to the center of the Chinatown coffee shop
Where: 42 Nelson Street, Chinatown
Type of food/beverage: Bagels
When: Mon–Fri: 9–16 // Sat and Sun: 9–15
Iindependent or chain: Sovereign
Back when I wrote about food only in the loosest sense, lunchtime was a daily ordeal.
Soup for the fourth day on the trot? Another spin around the Greggs carousel? Those dreaded words: “Meal deal”. That’s how madness lies.
In fact, before I was tasked with sampling all the variety the Northwest food scene has to offer, I was positively communist about the whole thing.
What I would call “the tyranny of choice” terrorized my every lunchtime to the point where I would have been happy to have been told what I should eat. Especially if it was corned beef. Yes, even every day.
It seems I’m not alone, as interest has been building around The Bagelry, a café on Nelson Street whose popularity has already led to a visit from three Liverpool footballers (that notoriously free-thinking sport).
Bagelry has a very neighborhood cafe atmosphere, the kind where the windows fog up early from the endless steam of the coffee machine and the body heat of the brunch club.
The layout is very caffeinated, with low tables topped with plastic sauce bottles and kitchen roll, a glass-fronted counter to look at, and a slightly shabby charm. Everything but hippie. Sonic Youth posters and a Black Panther call to arms adorn the walls. This isn’t just lunch. This means more.
The main event
Obviously I bought the pastrami melt (£9.85) for the sesame bagel. Consisting of pastrami, sauerkraut, pickles, cheese sauce and mustard mayonnaise, it’s just enough of a departure from the cast-iron quartet of beef, melted Emmental, gherkins and mustard.
But it’s taking a dangerous turn. The bagel, although rich in sesame, was somehow dry and a bit wet at the same time. The sauerkraut was strangely not very sour, the pickles lacked punch and the sauces brought very little mustard flavor that clashes so well with the salty beef. Meanwhile, the pastrami, properly carved from a big cut with fat still on the side of the beef, was encouraging, but corned beef should be, well, a little salty.
Shoot me, but the likes of Bagel Factory do it better. And for almost half the price. I would always prefer independent success to a faceless, multi-tentacled corporate entity, but you have to deliver the goods. It was a perfectly serviceable bagel, but after almost ten years, you want something that rivals the best, or at least warm.
As a neighborhood regular, The Bagelry is obviously popular for a reason, and any day I’d rather see something like this than, say, Bagel Factory. But I keep coming back to that faceless corporate clip because every time it satisfies what has been running through my mind all morning.
Bagelry could still do it, but not yet. Tomorrow is always lunch time.
The Bagelry, 42 Nelson St, Chinatown, L1 5DN