Find out where the three best Pastéis de Nata - Portuguese Custard Tarts - are
So you have heard about Portuguese Custard (sometimes egg) Tarts and you were told they are simply delicious. It's true, they are. But because they're so commonplace in Portugal, this means that you will find some that erm... let's say weren't made by the most talented hands. But worry not, we have tried them all so you wouldn't have to. Here is our ultimate, definitive list of the 3 best places where to have a pastel de nata in Lisbon.
How long have pastéis de nata been a thing?
Legend has it that way back in the XIX century, the monks who lived in Mosteiro dos Jerónimos were going through a rough patch and were strapped for cash. For that reason, a more ingenious one must have thought that it would be a great idea to start selling some goods so they came up with this primitive version of the Pastel de Nata, which became known as Pastel de Belém because that's where they were invented.
As if to add insult to injury, the monastery was shut down in 1835 as a consequence of the 1820 Liberal Revolution and so the monks found themselves out of house, home, and well, kitchen. Having nowhere to cook their famous pastry, a shrewder monk decided to sell the million-dollar recipe to Domingos Rafael Alves, a Portuguese businessman who'd just come from Brasil. Alves, being a learned businessman, patented the recipe which is still kept secret to this day, known only by some members of his family and even fewer trusted workers of the pastry shop we know today.
This patent is the reason why Pastéis de Belém can only be found there whereas Pastéis de Nata are all over the place. But these "knock-offs" surely are as good as the "real stuff".
Pastéis de Belém
Here is the only place where you can have the real Pastéis de Belém, which inspired every pastel de nata recipe. Despite being centuries old, this recipe is still sure to make modern mouths water, judging by the long, neverending lines at the door and the 20,000 pastéis which are produced on a normal day. We say normal because on days of abnormal affluence as many as 55,000 pastéis have been produced.
Once you're inside, you can either have your pastel at the counter (which might make it faster) or sit at a table and have a plateful with a bica (Portuguese for espresso) - it's up to you.
Address: Rua Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa
Open: Everyday from 8 am to 12 pm
Aloma in Campo de Ourique has been making Lisbonites happy since it opened in 1943. This pastry shop quickly became popular due to the quality of their artisanal pastries and sweets. In fact, they're so talented that their pastel de nata has already been awarded the Best Pastel de Nata title three times. And the Portuguese aren't alone in thinking this way.
These pastéis have deserved mentions in such reputable media such as The New York Times and CNN. Still, most of their customers are Portuguese which means the chances you'll find yourself in a queue that goes around the block like in Belém are slim.
These delicacies are known for being particularly thin and crispy on the outside but light and creamy on the inside. Take an afternoon off to walk around Campo de Ourique and don't forget to make a stop here.
Address: Rua Francisco Metrass, 67, Campo de Ourique, Lisboa
Open: Everyday from 7 am to 8 pm
Manteigaria União opened in July 2014. In all fairness, it reopened because the first Manteigaria União dates back to 1900 and used to run in the exact same building as this "new" one. Once you're inside, it might not look like an early XX century building, but we guarantee that those marble walls have been there for much longer than any of us have.
The splendid limestone Art Nouveau facade has also stood the test of time, and we're so glad it did. We're also glad that not only did the building remain unchanged but also what happens inside it. Here, you are guaranteed to have one of the best treats Lisbon has for you.
Inside this old bakery, pastéis de nata are pride of place. In fact, this is what Manteigaria is all about, save for coffee, of course. You can see pastéis being made all day behind the counter, right in front of you. And they are splendid. You can have them at the counter or on the go but make sure you take some napkins with you because the creamy filling is bound to overflow once you take the first bite. If you manage not to eat it in a single one, that is.
Address: Rua do Loreto, 2, Bairro Alto, Lisboa
Open: Everyday from 8 am to 12 pm
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