Since my first visit to Lisbon last October, I’ve been trying to find something that came close to the pastel de nata, the traditional Portuguese egg tart, at Pastéis de Belém. One of the best bakeries in Cambridge is owned by a Portuguese lady, and her pastéis de nata were the closest I got to being transported back to the streets of Lisbon, sinking into a warm, creamy custard tart, with a flaky crust and a dust of cinnamon and sugar.
So, when we moved to Lisbon for the summer, I made it my mission to find the best pastel de nata in town.
If you’re looking for the best pastéis de nata in the Lisbon area, then, hands down, you’ll find them in at Pastéis de Belém. Even with everything to see and do in Belém, it’s still worth a visit just to pick up a few tarts from the bakery that’s been churning them out since 1837.
While we wish we could make the trip to Belém every time we want some pastéis de nata, it would be a bit impractical (because, well, we want them every day). Thus, we set out on a search for somewhere more within walking distance of our summer digs in Lisbon.
In order to find the best and make a fair comparison, we set out a few criteria to assess these scrumptious little tarts.
The pastry shell will make or break your tart. If it’s soggy or tastes like old lard, it’s hard to enjoy the filling. Thus we, wanted a crust that was light, crisp and flaky, with just a hint of buttery flavor.
We like our filling thick, creamy and smooth, but not too sweet.
We looked for pastéis de nata that had a rippled, caramelized top, but wasn’t burned. Cinnamon and powdered sugar must be readily available to sprinkle on top.
And most importantly, served hot!
Even the best pastel de nata in the world wouldn’t be that great served cold. In order for the crust to stay crisp and the creamy custard to melt in your mouth, it must be warm!
And the winner is…
Manteigaria. This little shop on the edge of Barrio Alto is fairly new on the scene, but it only does one thing and it does is right. From the minute you set foot in this modern, narrow pastelaria, you’re greeted by the wafting smell of cooking custard and freshly ground cinnamon, with warm trays of pastéis de nata on display.
The tarts at Manteigaria have by far the lightest, flakiest, crispiest crust. Perhaps this is blasphemy, but dare I say even better than Pastéis de Belém. The custard is thick and and with just the right hint of sweetness. If you squeeze your way past the standing counter to the back of the shop, you’ll see the pastry chefs pressing the perfect amount of dough into round tins, ready to be filled with custard and baked right on site and served warm.
The location is central, just few steps away from Largo do Camões. Plus, it’s open from 8am to midnight every day. We pick one (or two) up each time we pass by on our way home to Campo de Ourique, justifying that we need sustenance for the journey back uphill.
Pastelaria Cristal. If you find yourself in the Lapa neighborhood, this pastelaria makes a solid tart that’s won best pastéis de nata in Lisbon in recent years.
Pastelaria Aloma. This pastelaria has its original location in our neighborhood of Campo de Ourique. With such a close proximity, we had to employ a lot of restraint. They’ve also won the best pastel de nata award in Lisbon, which they proudly tout on their window panes (and their website. The address is www.omelhorpasteldenatadelisboa.com, so that should clear things up. 🙂 )
This pastelaria opened up additional locations, one near Manteigaria and a bit further down the street from Largo do Camões, and the other in the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira.
If you’ve had a few pastéis de nata, which one was your favorite?