Our Custard Pilgrimmage to Pasteis De Belem
After years of gorging on Portuguese Custard Tarts we finally made it to their home in Lisbon. Portuguese custard tarts have become something of a signature dish for us after we made them for our first supperclub. We have since made them lots of times & were even asked to make a tiered version for a wedding cake.
We had a wonderful time in Lisbon. It’s an exciting city with lots to do, eat & see. It felt like there is a bit of a food renaissance going on with plenty of modern, innovative restaurants sitting alongside the traditional favourites. The old central market has been turned into the coolest food hall I’ve ever seen where top Portuguese chefs have opened accessible stalls to serve their top class food. Before we left though Becky & I agreed the main thing on our to-do list was a visit to the now legendary home of the Pasteis de Nata (custard tart).
The Pasteis De Belem shop is widely credited with inventing the recipe for the Portuguese Custard Tart. It is one of our favourite things to eat ever & it seems the whole of Portugal agrees. We have spent a lot of time in Southern Portugal & eat them everyday. They are always good & usually great with a crispy bottom & thick custard which just maintains its shape when bitten. We did wonder if, after the many hundreds we have eaten we would find the originals just the same as the rest – how many variations of a basic recipe can there be? Could they get any better?
The bakery is in a wonderful old building with traditional Portuguese blue tiles & a warren of rooms full of people swigging coffee & crunching through tarts. We visited early evening which is a good time to avoid the queues which often stretch down the road. We left our family to try to find seats & Becky & I set off to explore. We eventually found the prep room where the tarts are made & jostled at the window to watch.
They are made in huge batches, baked on massive trays & then the only part of the process the public can see is when they come out of the oven & are all turned over to ensure a properly crispy bottom.
The whole place has a lovey atmosphere, its quite noisy with large families & groups of friends enjoying their baked goods & caffeine. We found a table & I ordered a bica (like a Portuguese espresso) & 2 custard tarts (one for photos was my excuse). I have to say we were all surprised that the tarts were different to any we’d had before. They were lighter, the custard was slightly less thick yet still held its shape. The bottoms were impossibly crispy. We were not disappointed.
If you’re heading to Lisbon I recommend a trip to Belem. The area is stunning & the custard tarts will not disappoint. There is now an annual top 10 of the custard tarts in Lisbon. Pasteis de Belem did not win it in 2016 & we wished we’d had time to check out the place that did but there was too much other deliciousness to eat. Portuguese food is wonderful in its simplicity & freshness & we never tire of eating it.
Here’s some links to our other blogs & recipes from Portugal: