Bagels: Some of us have probably mistaken them for doughnuts. Those who did were probably disappointed. Not memorable enough to deserve their own shop, nor mediocre enough to be neglected entirely, most people overlook this circular alternative to the baguette, or at the very least confine it to the breakfast menu. Are they right to do so? I wasn’t sure, and seeking to answer this question, I embarked on a quest to discover the tastiest (and most affordable) bagels Oxford had to offer.
Breakfast from the Alternative Tuck Shop seemed liked on obvious way to start. Between baguettes, paninis, baps and five varieties of ciabattas, why choose the roll-with-a-hole for to begin the day? Maybe you shouldn’t: but I love pesto, I love chicken, I love bagels. Hence, I must love a pesto chicken bagel. The logic is sound. Premises true.
Yet somewhere in that little corner shop, my conclusion fell false. Sadly, even though the bagel itself was comfortably crispy, the chicken chunks were distributed so unevenly that it pushed the two half bagels apart. If my bagel falls apart, so do I. Are bagels really meant to be sandwiches?
After a disappointing start to my journey I turned to an organization more famed for its deserts than its lunch menu. I discovered that bagels at G&D’s work on a cheese-tolerance scale. Old and classy? Cream cheese. Tired of being average? Go with Meltz. Feeling adventurous or already drunk? Rich pizza bagels. Then decide what goes in between: Mediterranean, Greek or Bacon & Brie. Finally pick between plain, poppy seed and sesame bagels. Does it really matter? For aesthetic reasons, I suppose it does. Breakfast bagels are also served before noon, which is a plus.
To be honest, G&D bagels are like my tute essays, full of loose arguments and random musings, individually amazing, but heedlessly lacking in unity when combined. This time I got Tuna melt: first rate fillings, second rate bagel. Biggest turn-off was its density: too loose, not crispy and not chewy. I was also hoping that there would be ice cream bagels. There were no ice cream bagels. Disappointing.
In the final hopes of bagel salvation, I went back to a reliable old favorite of mine. The venue: Art Café. The tea-time snack: a classic salmon and cream cheese bagel, stuffed throughout with cucumbers. The cucumbers were a nice touch to freshen up the saltiness of the fish, balancing out creamy thickness of the fish and cheese. Bagelwise, it’s there, chewy crust and dense interior. Toasted to perfection too: just warm and crunchy enough to hold everything in place. Perfectly balanced, as all things must be. It also comes with salad and coleslaw on the side, which is a nice touch, and rectifies the error in over-filling made by Alternative Tuck Shop. The final verdict: a strong old bagel.