Review : The Bagel Shop, Manchester

There’s that episode of Friends, the one where Rachel tries to make a trifle but the recipe book pages are damaged so she puts beef in it.

Joey likes the trifle, citing the fact that all the individual ingredients are good and inferring that all the ingredients together are, therefore, also good.  That’s the inference that the rest of the group disagreed with.

Sometime in 2016 I got a bagel on Beat Street in Manchester and it was amazing.  About a month ago a friend pointed out a picture on Instagram saying that the same people that made me that bagel were opening a restaurant in Manchester, so we decided to go.  The Bagel Shop, situated at 64 Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter, opened on 1st December.

Somehow I’d managed to get out the house that morning without breakfast so I was ravenous by the time we arrived around lunchtime.  For our whole stay, we were the only people there.  Service was great and friendly and everyone said hello.

We were presented with a menu containing bagels with a variety of fillings, burgers, salads and fries.  Being indecisive, I was recommended the Reuben sandwich.  I got the quarter pound one with some fries, while my friend just got the half pound one. These are limited to 50 a day and I probably can’t do any better than writing the description from the menu:

We use American brisket as the cattle are grain fed which gives the meat its juicy marbling. We then cure the meat for two weeks in salt. After that we rub it in our secret spice mix. Finally its smoked in Old Buddy for fifteen hours.

The food was great, it really was.  New York is still on my list of places to go, but my experience of a Philly Cheese Steak in Philadelphia is that locals can take signature food to the next level with extra care and pride.  I can’t say whether The Bagel Shop rivals New York’s finest, but they’re certainly proud of it and it shows.  It was the best I’ve had, by a distance.

I normally rate price on whether I wince when I walk in.  I didn’t.  My quarter pound was £7.50 with the half coming in at £15, strangely enough.  As obvious as that should be, I was happy with my £7.50 but if I’d have got the half pounder with fries and a drink I could have been spending around £25 and that would have felt a lot for a sandwich irrespective of the quality and ingredients.

The soft launch of the restaurant was 30th November with official launch on 1st December, but it feels like it’s still not quite finished.  My trip wasn’t affected by the lack of coffee machine or brunch menu that will all be arriving within days though.

I would definitely recommend a trip to The Bagel Shop.  You won’t be disappointed.

So, why the Friends reference?  The restaurant itself is perfectly pitched towards the stereotypical Northern Quarter.  It’s cool.  It’s got lots of concrete and metal and dark furnishings to match the dark walls.  It’s got DJ decks and, when we walked in, the tables were set out neatly with wine glasses.  It looks clean and smart and the decor ties together perfectly with the look that was being aimed at.  It looked smart.

I think my problem was with my expectation of what I thought it would look like.  I was going to a place for a bagel for lunch.  I guess I was expecting a cafe rather than a restaurant.  If I imagine my dream trip to New York, the bagel place would be bright and airy and fun.  I’d be drinking coffee out of a mug or a milkshake.  I’d be thinking comfortable rather than cool which is what I got with my street food bagel at Beat Street last year.

If it were me (and I still harbour my dream of a coffee shop that turns in to a coffee themed bar at night) I might think of a day look (some extra lighting, different music, no wine glasses) and night look rather than one that tried to do both at once.

That made me think that The Bagel Shop is a little like Rachel’s trifle.  Food – good.  Atmosphere – good.  For lunch, the food is great.  For a night out, the place would be great, I think.  Together, though, is going to be a matter of taste.

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