Yeah, there are plenty of fantastic kinds of food made in Portugal. Think about different fish dishes, sweets – or the iconic port. However, to me the egg custard Pastel de Nata is to me simply the most unique food the Southeast European country has to offer. Even though roots of the pastry are likely already in the 18th century, the Fabrica de Pasteis de Belem in the Lisbon borough of Belem is widely accepted as the nuceleus of the success of the sweet delight. During a short stay in the Portuguese capital in May 2023, I just had to visit the famous bakery (again). Hope that this Pictured Story is not too mouth-watering.
Pasteis de Belem – Location
Pasteis de Belem is selling the egg pasty since 1837, three years after they bought the recipe from local monks. Since then, they run the bakery in Belem, which is nowadays selling over 20,000 of the pastries… per day. Belem is South of most Lisbon attractions, close to River Tajo. Due to time constraints, I took an Uber from the airport (roughly 15 EUR, but very prone to congestion). The tram stop Mosteiro Jeronimos is right in front of the place, used by tram 15, which is connecting Baixa with Belem. The name-giving monastry is another Lisbon key attraction and just a few meters away from the bakery.
Pasteis de Belem is opening daily from 08:00 to 21:00 hrs. Especially if you want to dine in, I would recommend not to pursue your natural desire and go for this bite in the afternoon – a lot of locals and tourists will do the same and may cause massive queues. The tarts taste amazing in the morning as well – I tried it for you, of course just in order to be able to confirm that 🙂 The bakery offers a wide range of pastries. If you just want to go for the pasteis de Belem (which is a registered trade mark, by the way), there is a dedicated takeaway. You can also choose and pre-pay from the full range of items from the counter, which feels most bakery-alike. And, finally, you can join the queue to dine in.
Pasteis de Belem – The Cafe
If you eat in, you have to join a waiting queue, which might feel a bit of shocking at first sight. However, the cafe is amazingly well organized and you will move forward relatively quickly. There are several rooms in which you can get a table. All of them are not overwhelmingly fancy, but they have a rural and warm touch and the staff is amazing (no issues to speak English as well). The menu is already printed on the walls of the waiting line and provided as a QR code at the table, which makes it easy to order.
As you see in the picture, the rooms are nicely decorated with typical Portuguese tiles. There are also some showcases with illustrative items about the history of the company. If you eat it, you don’t enter via the bakery-style counter area, but exit through there, like take-away customers. This is likely the most beautiful part of the building. I read complaints that the building may become rather hot in summer – it felt very comfortable in May 2023, at least.
Pasteis de Belem – Products
Okay, it is finally about these small, tasty tarts, made of egg yolks and a puff pastry-alike basis. The quality you get is amazing. Whereever I got these ones outside of Belem, they had a significiantly worse taste (even if they were still good). The more, it is amazing that the price per pastry is 1.30 EUR (May 2023), regardless if you eat in or take away. Even if you buy their box of 50, there is no discount. Especially if you eat in, I recommend to have a wider range of the bakery’s items. They are really good – and amazingly priced. I had two pastries, a nut tart, a rice muffin, a filled doughnut-alike danish, a double espresso and a bottle of water and finally paid 13 EUR. The warm pasteis de Belem were the most amazing part of the eat, though.
When you walk around, you can even see some of the production facilities, which I absolutely enjoyed.
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