petite anglaise

July 21, 2007

pasteis de nata

Filed under: on the road — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:10 am

Whenever my mother visits a church/cathedral in another city, she invariably makes the requisite “ooh” and “ahh” noises, then delivers her considered verdict.

“Well, it’s very nice,” she says, “but it’s not a patch on York Minster, is it?”

I swear, you could take her all the way to St Peter’s in the Vatican City, and she wouldn’t budge an inch. Her mind is made up.

Similarly, until last Tuesday, I never thought I’d cross paths with a cake that I could love as much as a good old egg custard tart. Preferably one baked by my grandma.

Until, that is, Lucy introduced me to pasteis de nata, and not just any pasteis de nata, but (arguably) the very best in all of Portugal, made in Belem (which in keeping with the golden rule that every word in Portuguese looks like it should be simple to pronounce, but actually sounds utterly outlandish, is pronounced something like Ber-laing. Or maybe Bell-end, I forget which). And made me sprinkle some cinnamon, from the shaker so thoughtfully placed on the table, on top of it.

Oh dear god. Cue near-orgasm in cake shop.

Suddenly it became abundantly clear why said cake shop has seating for approximately two hundred people.

But as I’m no good at describing food, I won’t tell you how these little beauties taste, you’ll just have to make the pilgrimage yourselves. Suffice to say that I ordered a second one, much to Lucy’s amusement. And what she doesn’t know, is that I went back the next day (under the feeble pretext that I needed to visit the monastery next door) and had another TWO.


Look no further for the reason I will be visiting Portugal again, in the not too distant future.

When I wasn’t eating ambrosia, I was doing one of three other things: riding trams along winding, hilly streets (similar to rollercoasters, not to be missed), eating huge stodgy fishy meals, or climbing up a few hundred steps to the top of churches/castle to take pictures of the rooftops of Lisbon.

It’s been a lovely five days, and I shall most definitely be back.


  1. after all these years of lurking, i’m finally crawling out of the woodwork to comment on how beautiful your photos are. i’m glad you had a wonderful trip! :-)

    Comment by Em — July 21, 2007 @ 12:27 am

  2. portuguese cakes really are one of life’s unmissable pleasures. in london there is a fantastic portuguese cafe at the end of portobello road (lisboa pastisserie in golborne road) that bakes the best pasteis de nata I’ve ever tasted. but I suppose london’s just as far from you as lisbon, no?

    p.s. mum’s right, york minster is hard to beat…

    Comment by edvard moonke — July 21, 2007 @ 12:35 am

  3. Come on, eating only two is not nearly enough! You have to eat those by the dozen! :D

    And ‘Bell-end’ is a pretty good way to actually pronounce it. Just make sure you end it with an ‘M’.

    Got me hungry now…

    Comment by Dan — July 21, 2007 @ 1:02 am

  4. I am in the privileged position of being able to take the elevator down from our apartment, walk in next door, and ask for them at the cakeshop. Yummy! A bica and a pastel is part of my morning ritual before heading to the office.

    Comment by Helge André Gudmundsen — July 21, 2007 @ 1:13 am

  5. ::cue near-orgasmic murmur of my own::

    i want to go to there!

    Comment by williamfromtexas — July 21, 2007 @ 2:47 am

  6. I love Portugal, and more specifically Lisbon. However, I don’t think of the sweets I ate there … more of the fish and green wine and fresh strawberries. Oh, and of course, I adored the azulejos!

    Comment by Lost in France — July 21, 2007 @ 3:06 am

  7. Petite’s mum says, “Well it’s very nice but it’s not a patch on York Minster, is it?”

    And quite right she is too! I’ve never met the lady but I like her already.

    Petite m’dear, that’s not an overly impressive-looking little pastry. But then I don’t suppose a custard tart looks all that impressive to the uninitiated.

    I guess you’re right, we’ll just have to undertake the pilgrimmage.. or else take your word for it.


    Comment by bonkers — July 21, 2007 @ 3:40 am

  8. My absolute favourite!
    [FYI: Bell-end-with-emphasis-on-ending-M is OK if you want to sound like a tourist trying to say Belem. “Pastel de nata” is the singular form of “pasteis de nata” … so it should really be “A pastel de nata”]

    Comment by pb — July 21, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  9. Did you go up that steel elevator tower thingy ? The view of the Lisbon rooftops with coffee and cakes is pretty amazing from there, as I recall.

    Comment by Roads — July 21, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  10. Boy, I love my country! :)
    When you do come back, don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit other places… It’s not all about Lisbon. I’d strongly recommend Guimarães, my hometown. It’s absolutely adorable.
    Everyone, take a look at:
    The photos aren’t mine but I just love them.
    Sorry but I had to take the opportunity to share my hometown with a vast audience! :D

    Comment by Sergio — July 21, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

  11. I went to Portugal two years ago. I missed all those cakes!

    Comment by Jean-Luc Picard — July 21, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  12. Breakfast in Lisbon was incredible-we had a huge tray loaded with pastries, bread, huge pieces of toast, and coffee and it all came to about 6euros. Heaven.

    Comment by cak — July 21, 2007 @ 1:59 pm

  13. In Golborne Road (at right angles to Portobello Rd) there are two Portuguese cafes – the Lisboa and the Oporto – that make/sell these little tarts and supply many cafes in West London…

    Comment by Jude — July 21, 2007 @ 3:08 pm

  14. Love them. We (in Hong Kong) make frequent trips to Macao just to have their egg tartes (and amazing food), as the Hong Kong versions are as awful and lacking of flavour and depth as one can only expect from a former British colony. ;) We’ve yet to find a bakery in Hong Kong that can replicate them.

    Comment by Therese — July 21, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

  15. I looked up the recipe for pasteis de nata — actually a number of versions of it, Internet recipes being so variable, so as to find the one that occurs most often. It appears to be a custard tart made (according to the majority of versions I saw) with puff pastry but sometimes with shortcrust pastry and more jiggly in the middle than the English ones. But based on your rapturous reaction to it, there’s got to be something something more. So how’s it differ?

    I’m a huge fan of custard tarts. A million years ago when I was at university, the cafeteria (University College London) made a mean custard tart. This Portuguese version I’ve got to try.

    Comment by Passante — July 21, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

  16. it’s official. You have ruined my ENTIRE life. My life SUCKS. It sucks hard. Oh shit your mum is reading this isn’t she. I am SORRY MUM!!!! (all of this translated means,,,,,you are amazing petite, your life is wonderful, your story telling abilities are beautiful, and I am terribly, terribly, envious of all!)

    Comment by beaunejewels — July 21, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

  17. A five day break anywhere in the UK would be shite right now. Oh how I envy you the sunshine.

    Comment by Colin — July 21, 2007 @ 9:57 pm

  18. yummers – bring some back please

    Comment by rivergirlie — July 21, 2007 @ 10:56 pm

  19. Pasteis de nata are fab and the good news is… Cojean in Paris sells them. I don’t know where they get them from but they’re the real thing, Yummm. or Miam. And When in London, yes the Lisboa Patisserie is fantastic. Sounds like a fab holiday, lossa luv

    Comment by rhino75 — July 22, 2007 @ 3:05 am

  20. amazing delicacy indeed! belem is a great choice

    Comment by est — July 22, 2007 @ 11:04 am

    Sign up here

    Nando’s does them as well.

    Comment by Christine Loeur — July 22, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

  22. Sounds like you had a fantastic time – great photos, too!

    Comment by Stratfordgirl — July 22, 2007 @ 1:06 pm


    The link above is a virtual tour of the York Minster Cathedral.
    Still read your blog when I get a chance Petite, and still like it.

    Comment by PeterG — July 22, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  24. Now you have broken the golden rule – don’t tell people about Pasteis de Belem otherwise there’ll be even less to go around! They are just so delicious aren’t they? I always like mine with a galao (although the Portuguese don’t really approve of you drinking milky coffee in the afternoon!).
    Although you can get pasteis nata in London, Paris etc, once you’ve had the ones in Belem you really are spoilt especially when they are warm.

    Comment by featherduster — July 22, 2007 @ 3:28 pm

  25. Portugal! Petite, how lucky you are!
    I love Portugal, I love Lisboa, I love Portuguese language and Teresa Salgueiro!
    Both of them are a sweetness for ears!

    Bonnes vacances!

    Comment by Dan Dx — July 22, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

  26. While York Minster is indeed beautiful, I think the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC can give it a run for its money……….

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — July 22, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

  27. I hope you are going to Sintra too? It is just down the road really, there is a monastry to visit but the cake shop at the bottom of the hill is a vital visit. Your comment about Portuguese made me laugh, I was hopeless and got really stuck travelling around the country by myself, but had a glorious time. Santarem was my favourite place after Lisboa, must go back… meanwhile will just eat more cakes!

    Comment by helensparkles — July 22, 2007 @ 6:16 pm

  28. In the words of the film

    “I’ll have what she’s having!”

    Comment by Meklin — July 22, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

  29. Hmmm, An ex-girlfriend of mine was exactly like your mum, but for her there was nowhere as good as Amiens Cathedral. “It’s a UNESCO world heritage site” she proudly boasted, as we wandered around York Minster, and she told me all the things that were not as good as Amiens cathedral. I’m glad that your other was there at the same time, otherwise it sounds like it might have resulted in ‘Handbags at Dawn’.
    Hope you enjoyed the holidays, I have to face the back to work blues tomorrow after a fun week in Paris/Strasbourg.:-(
    Good luck with the last little bits of the book.


    Comment by the_chemist — July 22, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

  30. #14: “Hong Kong versions are as awful and lacking of flavour and depth as one can only expect from a former British colony”

    Therese, have you eaten in London lately? Some of the best restaurants in the world are there. And you have always been able to get good food in Britain, though you often (but not always) had to pay quite a bit for it.

    I do get fed up with this mindless, kneejerk sneering at British food.

    Comment by Passante — July 22, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

  31. You must return to portugal, to lisbon, to oporto, to every city over there. And in each of cities you’ll find so nice and sweet specialities to eat that you have to ask not only two, but a box of eat. for example, next time pass by Aveiro to eat “ovos moles”, or at Algarve to eat “bolinhos de amêndoa”….

    Comment by candida — July 22, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

  32. man I like portugal and their football team, but unfortunately I haven’t managed to go there. I like Spanish food but think that Portuguese one is also delicious!

    Comment by Vanes — July 23, 2007 @ 12:51 am

  33. Portugal is one of the best kept secrets in Europe though it is becoming more popular…the best part is you can go from region to region and have a new pastry to taste, but the most famous and most pleasurable are the pasteis de nata em belem and when my aunt and uncle came to visit they secretly ordered a dozen and brought them to their hotel room and ate them until they were sick…can you blame them though?

    Comment by carrie — July 23, 2007 @ 8:07 am

  34. Yes! And they also sell them in Philpotts in Leeds…. I’m sure they taste better eaten in Portugal tho!

    Comment by Helen — July 23, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  35. wiping drool off my chin…..

    Comment by La Bellina Mammina — July 23, 2007 @ 11:51 am

  36. Been there, at the exact same shop and had pasteis de Belem. I totally understand you! And they are worm and delicious! (bad thing you can’t take them with you (read: fill big boxes to take back home) to eat them later but maybe that’s why you have to go there to taste them, that’s why they are special). It’s funny cause I had thought of leaving a comment saying “don’t forget the pasteis de Belem” a few days ago but I thought you already knew about them. Fortunately you found out

    Comment by stavroulix — July 23, 2007 @ 11:51 am

  37. I went to Portugal (Lisboa and Portimao) ten years ago, and had one of the best food ever! The food is what I remember the most from that trip. However, I found people in general rude, even with French standards.

    Comment by Kristina — July 23, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

  38. Sounds and looks scrumptious. The best holiday we ever had was in Portugal, mostly in a little seaside town which I will not name because it was just TOO good to share (sorry). Now I know we must go back, if for no other reason than because we missed this treat, though we did spend some time in Lisbon.

    I passed a woman seated outside a patisserie in Central London yesterday with a cappucino and what I know as a tompouce (custard slice?). Envy, for I had no money, gave way to dismay when I noticed the lady was intent on having a cigarette first. I thought of snatching the cake. Instead, I inspected the ones in the window and decided quickly that they had not been made that day. A small consolation.

    Now I am rewarded with directions to Portuguese delicacies in London. A big consolation :-)

    Comment by Eats Wombats — July 23, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

  39. Kristina #37 wrote:
    “However, I found people in general rude, even with French standards.”

    Oh! Really? I find the Portuguese very friendly, even with French standards. :-D
    Learn just a bit of Portuguese, meet the people, I bet you’ll change your mind.

    Comment by Dan Dx — July 23, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

  40. You must be able to get them in Paris somewhere – you can get excellent ones all over the place in London. In fact, i think I may nip out and get one now, you’ve got me in the mood!

    I love Portuguese food.

    Comment by stressqueen — July 23, 2007 @ 3:48 pm

  41. PA,
    Thank you for such an entertaining run of Portuguese adventures, and some wonderfully evocative photos. You’ve made me realise that I’ve wasted months pontificating about where to spend my few weeks of vacation, before starting university (at the tender age of 46, how will I cope?).

    With my mind settled, I can now crack-on and make firm plans to reacquaint myself with the delights of the Pasteis de Belém, having spent a wonderful afternoon eating Pasteis de Nata and drinking endless bicas waiting for the engine on our van to cool down. I’d been helping a friend move from a modern apartment in Cascais to a beautiful old apartment in the Ajuda district. We had carried so much furniture in the old Jalopy, it had overheated opposite the Mosteiro Dos Jerónimos. Where better to be forced to wait a couple of hours for the engine to cool. The really surprising thing was that it “conked-out” every time we passed the same part of town! Eventually, our wives, following behind in cars laden with bits, twigged out heinous plan!

    So fond the memories, I must return.

    Thanks for the nudge, keep up the useful service.


    Comment by Sodom&Gomorrah — July 23, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

  42. Maybe you could pack one in your luggage and take it back home to Tadpole as a present. LOL.

    Comment by Caroline in Rome — July 23, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

  43. I went to a bakery hoping to pick up a French tart….

    Comment by ~Tim — July 23, 2007 @ 10:57 pm

  44. If you’re no good at talking food, there are other sensual pleasures you could describe for us, instead…

    Comment by John Bullshit — July 24, 2007 @ 6:20 am

  45. Try Stohrer in rue Montorgueil.not as good as the Real Thing, but not bad

    Comment by Mancunian lass — July 24, 2007 @ 10:43 am

  46. Hello Petite,
    I had the same “crush” on those cakes when I visited Lisbon years ago! By the time I found a little shop selling portuguese food in the 15th in Paris. I know it’s at the end of the world from Belleville but they had fresh pasteis delivered each thursday or friday! Un délice! And recently I saw that Cojean and the patisserie Stohrer (rue Montorgueil) sell them.

    Comment by Véronique — July 24, 2007 @ 10:51 am

  47. ¤46, Véronique, où as-tu trouvé les pasteis de nata dans le 15ème? Mon père habite près de Convention, est-ce loin?

    Comment by Teaperson — July 24, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

  48. I love pasteis de nata with a passion, fortunately (unfortunately for my figure) I live close to Little Portugal in Montreal. My Mr. Frog, who has the metabolism of a ferret, can eat 10 in one sitting. They are probably my favourite dessert ever.

    Comment by Hannah — July 24, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  49. Unfortunately, you cannot take Pastéis de Belém home, because unlike the common pastel de nata which will still taste great for days, the dough on the Pasteis de Belém tastes quite funny after a couple of hours. I think they are only good when warm..
    So actually I would rather recommend finding a good Pastelaria to eat them, where the custard is not totally cooked and they still are shiny in the middle: that is the true jewel!

    But I was glad to read all those favorable comments on Portuguese food! :)

    Comment by rita — July 24, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

  50. Hello Teaperson!
    C’était tout près de Convention, 65 rue de l’Abbé Groult si mes souvenirs sont bons. Mais je n’y suis pas retournée depuis longtemps!

    Comment by Véronique — July 24, 2007 @ 8:36 pm

  51. My sister sings in the Minster choir. Go to evensong if you want to experience more than just a building. I’ve been banned by my mum as I can’t stop joining in.

    Comment by annathetoddler — July 24, 2007 @ 9:45 pm

  52. So that will be the sound of your arse expanding then?

    Comment by meredic — July 24, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  53. we have a trip to Portugal planned for next summer, and now I’m even more excited about it. Are these the pastries that David Lebowitz described on his site a few weeks (months?) ago?
    I love your account of your mom’s chauvinism — my husband’s father will always say, no matter how renowned or fabulous the restaurant food, “you just can’t ever get food as good as homemade, can you?”
    Not justified by my mother-in-law’s cooking!

    Comment by materfamilias — July 25, 2007 @ 1:18 am

  54. The Eagle on Farringdon Road does killer nata, for what it’s worth.

    Comment by Jamie — July 25, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

  55. I know this is not a cooking show!!!
    But here is the recipe ….

    Petits flans pourtugais

    0,5 l de lait
    250 g de sucre
    35 g de farine
    5 oeufs
    1 pincée de sel
    1 gousse de vanille
    jus de citron
    1 pâte feuilletée

    Read and follow the the how to do list at:

    Comment by Ellen — July 25, 2007 @ 11:48 pm

  56. Pasteis de nata and bolos de coco are my earliest childhood cake memories of holidays in what is now Mozambique (then called Portuguese East Africa) I was delighted to find them again in Paris in a small cafe off Avenue Kleber.. it may be in Avenue des Portugais or the one before that. Now luckily Crawley in the UK has a Portuguese community and they are onsale in the High St.

    Comment by Geraint — July 26, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

  57. I grew up in York, and I was more impressed by pretty much every one of the large churchey things I saw in Paris. St Sulpice, Notre Dame, St Eustache… but most of all, Sacre Coeur. How on earth could anyone say York Minster is better than Sacre Coeur??

    Comment by clare — July 28, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  58. Hi Petite… mmm my mouth is watering! Luckily I am heading to Lisbon soon and will sample some of these delights – where is the cake shop you went to?

    Comment by ally — July 30, 2007 @ 9:28 am

  59. no 50. Merci Véronique; désolée pour la réponse tardive, j’étais à l’étranger pdt qqs jours.

    Je vais essayer lors de mon prochain passage ds le 15ème :-)

    Comment by Teaperson — August 8, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  60. I was recently in Paris for the first time and loved it…and the pastieries…pure heaven. But the pasteis de nata in Portugal are something else. These are one of the reasons I moved back! I live in the Algarve now, so we don’t get the Belem ones, but there’s a local bakery nearby that does a great job. I’m just happy their within driving rather than walking distance. I purposely avoid driving nearby in the mornings…hot with cinnamon and a galao…pure weakness in the knees.
    Great Blog!

    Comment by Eddie — August 28, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

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