Saturday, 25 July 2015

Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon: (probably) the best Portuguese custard tarts in the world

I'll be honest with you, I'm not a huge fan of Portuguese cuisine. There's a laaaaatta seafood, which unfortunately me no likey, as hard as I try. Vegetarians need not apply in Portugal. I've been eating a laaaaatta chicken. 

However there's one Portuguese speciality I can fully get behind: custard tarts. 

Oh, how I love custard tarts!

The country's most famous pastry is ubiquitous up and down Portugal, tempting passers-by into every pastelaria and padaria. Well, tempting me at least.

I've never met a custard tart - or to use the Portuguese name, pastel de nata - I didn't like, but I know which ones I like the most. 

Ladies and gents, let me introduce you to the Lisbon institution that is Pastéis de Belém

Our lovely Portuguese friends took us there the first time we visited the capital city a fair few years ago, and when we went back to Lisbon for the second time last weekend, a trip to the home of Portuguese custard tarts was our number one priority. I know you don't judge. 

Pastéis de Belém is, perhaps obviously, in the area of Lisbon called Belém. Founded in 1837, the recipe for its famous custard tarts is top-secret. 

Tourists and locals alike queue down the street to pick up their takeaway tarts, but make sure you don't join that queue if you want to eat in - we briefly made that mistake before realising the error of our ways and making our way into the charming old restaurant. 

With its traditional blue and white tiled walls and simple tables and chairs, the interior is thoroughly charming. Seating a whopping 400 people, the restaurant is pretty huge, but that just creates a brilliant buzzy atmosphere. We had to wait a few minutes for a table, but then again it was a Saturday afternoon in July. 

You can look into the kitchen where trays upon trays of warm freshly-baked pastéis (the plural of pastel) de Belém are produced all day long at crazy speed. 

It was early afternoon so we decided to go for a lunch-slash-afternoon-tea stop, ergo justifying a big ole feast. 

There's lots on the menu from which to choose, both savoury and sweet snacks and small meals, but everyone goes for one reason alone. 

Dad went for some meat pastries, mum for a slice of pizza and the sis and I shared a big chicken sandwich on the loveliest soft bread. 

But let's get on to the main affair, shall we?

Enter, Pastéis de Belém. 

(Apologies for the strange lighting in the photos - we were in a room with minimal natural light. I took a few snaps of the ones we took away for the next day too, although they don't look as good as they did fresh from the oven.)

There are dusters of cinnamon and icing sugar on every table, so naturally I gave my tarts a generous sprinkle of the former. I love how every single piece of crockery and tablewear proudly displays the Pastéis de Belém logo. 

Oh my days. 

These were just *does stereotypically Italian finger kissing thing to denote deliciousness* (- why isn't there an emoji for that?)

The pastry on the outside is super crispy and flaky, the top is lightly caramelised just to seal it, and the inside is filled with the creamiest of custards, flavoured to perfection. 

Slightly warm, it is just heaven in a mouthful. 

And naturally, we had multiple. 

If you want to take some away though, the waiters are more than happy to give you a little box and bag in which to pop your custard tarts and save for later. 

They really are just the absolute best. It kills me that my pics nowhere near do these babies justice.

So essentially: go there, eat a custard tart (or three), let your life be changed.

Find out more about Pastéis de Belém here. Oh, and there'll be a lot more on the blog about our trip to Lisbon soon. Spoiler: it was awesome.


  1. Portugal sounds right up my street cuisine wise, I am a sucker for all things seafood!


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