There’s no excusing visiting Lisbon and not tasting one (or four) of Portugal’s signature pastry, Pastéis de Nata, and there are no lack of places to find them. The most famous of them all is Pastéis de Belém, which sounds an awful lot like ‘blame’ – exactly what you’d need them to take after gaining a couple of stone from eating too many tarts.
Round like a lemon curd tart, the pastries take around 4 or 5 bites to finish (depending on how hungry you are, of course) and are so delicately sweet that after 3 in a row you might start to feel a little green around the gills. Pastéis de Belém have been making these sugary treats for so long, they churn out around 15,000 tarts a day and each one is as delicious as the last.
Round sheets of thin pastry are layered and filled with the creamy and sweet ‘custard’ of milk, eggs, sugar and other secret ingredients. The tarts are then baked at 400°C to create the perfect custard consistency and a beautiful brown crust. Naturally, the Portuguese have the art of eating one down to a tee also! Served slightly warm, you can sprinkle the tarts with powdered sugar and cinnamon to add a kick to the already sweet custard.
There’s often a large queue outside for the takeaway section and the seated areas are usually very busy. A maze of small seated areas, make your way around the back rooms until you find a spot or hover for a few for a few minutes until a table becomes available – the waiters are pretty quick to get your order and your tarts will arrive within 5 minutes. It’ll take a lifetime to get the secret recipe out of them though …
Best enjoyed with a traditional Portuguese espresso, a couple of Pastéis de Nata will only begin your obsession with all the other national pastries. On the way out, you can pick up a pack (or four) of the tarts – just don’t eat them all at once.