Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Pastéis de Belém - Lisbon, Portugal

Before I launch into any booze-drenched posts of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, held in Lisbon last weekend, I wanted to get this out there. This is the first place, reportedly, to sell Pastéis de Nata; Portugese custard tarts. These tarts are believed to be created by the monks of Mosteiro dos Jerónimo, a monastery in Belém, before the 18th Century. I was almost loathe to eat any on our trip to Lisbon until we visited this place as it had been so highly recommended. Of course I couldn't resist though... One does need a point of reference, after all. They were on offer everywhere.

We left the trip to Belém until Monday, at the very end of our long weekend in Lisbon. As such, we were a bedraggled bunch. It took us two hours to get there, due to getting on the wrong train(s). Pastéis de Belém is enormous - at first glance it looked like just a large cafe, but on exploring further it really was maze-like with blue and white tiled cavernous rooms out the back.

We sat down, thirsty and hungover, to peruse the menu. Salt cod cakes, beef croquettas, a couple of quiches and of course the tarts were ordered. Service was a bit scatty; our waitress arrived with our quiches, then whisked them away again to get them warmed up. They returned cold. The ham quiche was always going to me more tasty than the spinach, and it didn't let us down. Both were hefty examples.

I didn't enjoy the meat paste texture of the beef croquettes much, but the salt cod cakes were great. Slightly garlicky, flaky soft cod with delicious mashed potato, fried up and still warm. A little ketchup wouldn't have gone astray - any kind of fried potato product has me looking for the red stuff.

But what of the main event? The custard tarts were, as suspected, excellent. Flaky pastry, the outer of which was so brittle and thin it shattered like glass in the mouth - though far less harmful, of course. The custard filling had a pleasingly creamy texture, without being overtly eggy, nor too sweet. In short, I loved it. I debated having another, but as we'd already decided we would be having a second lunch, I held back.

All this, with 3 bottles of water (I told you it had been a heavy weekend...) came to 15 Euros in total.

A mere hour later, I dived into this - salt cod fillet, at a nearby restaurant. I have developed a worrying addiction to the fish.

Pastéis de Belém

Rua de Belém no. 84 a 92
1300 - 085 Lisboa
Portugal

Tel: +351 21 363 74 23

19 comments:

catty said...

ahhh! what i wouldn't give to have a portugese tart right now. they are *so* delicious and I often have custard tarts thinking they will be just as good, but no where near. portugese tarts are in a league of their own - I'm surprised you controlled yourself to one :)

Su-Lin said...

Is it true the pasteis are served with cinnamon? Thought I read that somewhere...

Love those salt cod fritters too - my favourites (not that I've been to Portugal to try the real thing!).

alexthepink said...

I love these babies! Last time I had one was when I was in Macau... Drooling over my keyboard as I speak!

Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

So glad you made it there! I'd forgotten they actually serve food there other than Portuguese tarts. Did I tell you they can be bought in roll cartons of about 10? And that I bought one for myself?!

helen.gravy@gmail.com said...

I definitely felt these were the best I ate on the whole trip. I could demolish three right now. With a Bock, naturally.

ginandcrumpets said...

If Portugal ever needs to justify its existence, it can point to pasteis and look smug. They are so tasty. And they know the value of fortified wine, too.

Lizzie said...

Catty - you know, I am also surprised I managed to hold back...

Su-Lin - There was a shaker of cinnamon, yes. I'm not a big fan of the stuff (especially as I'd shaken it over my eggs that morning, thinking it was pepper).

Alex - Ah yes, the ones in Macau are great! I wonder if that's where the Chinese egg custard tarts came from?

Helen YLP - No, you did NOT tell me that! Damn!

Helen G - Natch. Not with some wine..?

Gin & Crumpets - yes, that's very true - we did drink rather a lot of fortified wine!

Ollie said...

I'm impressed you made it, water or no water. The monastery looks beautiful.

Sonia said...

Oh how wonderful! I am portuguese, and always love to see other people enjoying our pasteis!!

Those salt cod croquettes are also called pasteis (pasteis de bacalhau). If you head to Cafe Lisboa in Portobello you can buy them there, as well as their custardy brothers

I'm about to delve into the rest of your blog now. So glad I discovered it!

Food Urchin said...

Hmm lovely looking salt cod cakes! Looking forward to the EWBC posts but the question is can you remember anything?! ; )

gastrogeek said...

Ah this all looks so gorgeous and mouth-watering! Those Bocks sound good too. I must get myself over to Lisbon someday.

shayma said...

lizzie,thanks for your comment on my blog, i read yours religiously and love your photos. i need to be less lazy about leaving comments on others' blogs.

as usual, a great post and beautiful photography. loves it.

Dan said...

Liz, great start to the Portugal posts - Love a Pastéis de Nata... one of the few benefits of my office move to Camden is the small Portugese community and their delis located there. There's one on Delancey Street that sells Pastéis de Nata for 75p.

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