Are the Portuguese tarts from Belém that I mentioned in my last post perhaps the world’s most seductive pastéis de nata?
Many a Lisbon guidebook claims they are, which means tourists in droves make the gastronomic pilgrimage across the Portuguese capital to a tiny but perpetually busy bakery in the waterside suburb of Belém.
The Antiga Confeitaria de Belém has been baking since 1837 and today arguably does brisker business than the nearby glorious Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Hieronymites Monastery) built to celebrate Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama’s discovery of India in 1498.
A fabulous example of exquisite Manueline architecture, this monastry took 100 years to complete and should be inked into any Lisbon itinerary whether you are a lover of tarts or not. Entrance is free with the Lisboa Card or costs €7, which is the same for any historic attraction in Portugal.
But let’s return to that other reason for riding the old tram number 15 down to the waterfront. It took us less than 30 seconds to scoff one of the famous custard tarts, which cost €1.80 each. The bustling pastelaria pumps out 15,000 tarts every day!
I’m not sure if they are actually the best that I’ve ever eaten but I was easily seduced by all the hype.The perfect accompaniment is a bica (a short black coffee).
The Belém tarts are unquestionably most delicious, with a light flaky pastry and a delicate creamy custard made to a secret recipe that originally came from the nearby monastery and which today remains as closely guarded a secret as the formula for Coca Cola. And in regard to that little slice of trivia, I’m pretty convinced that a Portuguese tart a day is whole lot more healthy for you than a Coke.