Monty’s Deli: Jewish classics (with a twist) return to East London
Hoxton Street feels like “old” London: divey cafes; eel, pie and mash shops; understated eateries and ethnic stores. Here, the hipster wave has only brushed the surface. But one wave settled deep into the soil: Jewish immigration in the late-19th, early-20th Century resulted in around 250,000 Jewish residents calling East London (primarily Whitechapel and Spitalfields) their home. The history of Jewish food in East London had begun…
Under the grey noon sky of a mid-week day, we venture to Monty’s Deli, whose mission is to bring Jewish classics back to East London. Monty’s is poised to make the uncool cool again, and it seems to be working judging by their recent upgrade. From a stall in Maltby Street Market under the arches in Bermondsey to raising £50,000 for kitchen equipment through a Kickstarter Campaign to launch their brick and mortar location, the founding duo has risen through the culinary ranks. Mark Ogus, owner and founder, had a vision of offering the Jewish soul food that marked his childhood and set out to achieve this with his friend and sous-chef Owen Barratt.
Of the selection, the most surprisingly delightful bites were the latkes.
The deli has taken the place of an old bakery, maintaining the building’s original tiles and achieving a diner feel with booths along the perimeter. A posh bar area at the centre of the restaurant hints at their cocktail selection and offers a great vantage point for watching the sammies getting layered. Despite the contradictory design messages, the vibe works. The staff is friendly and the lunch crowd is local.
As an NYC expat and recovering bagel addict, I have been on a quest to find a bagel in London that could even compare to the Big Apple staple. And don’t talk to me about Beigel Bake, that’s bread made into rounds with a hole – no disrespect to their outstanding salt beef.
The Reuben was solid. Tasty, overflowing with meat, but surprisingly subtle in flavour.
We ordered the house pickles, latkes, a Reuben with salt beef and a smoked salmon bagel (of course). Of the selection, the most surprisingly delightful bites were the latkes. The nests of sweet and fragrant potatoes were perfectly cooked and crunchy, with none of the greasy sogginess that can come as part of the package. The house pickles were extraordinarily pretty, although definitely less of an “authentic classic” and more aligned with the minimalist food offering overwhelming menus in the age of tapas-style everything.
The Reuben was solid. Tasty, overflowing with meat, but surprisingly subtle in flavour. If you like your meat with a boom then Beigel Bake might be more up your alley than Monty’s. However, amongst the two of us dining, one of us preferred Monty’s perfectly understated flavours and crunchy home-made pickle.
The unfortunate surprise came with the smoked salmon bagel: everything was great…except the bagel, which was ice cold from the fridge. Sacrilege! Deeply dissatisfied with the bagel situation I took a few poppy seed rounds home for a second attempt: next-day breakfast. You’ll be happy to know, the toasted rounds smothered in an unseemly amount of butter tasted like Brooklyn. The most authentic bagel in London. Hallelujah.
Words by Livia Solustri & photography by Siena Morrell.