On Wednesday we went to Belém for the morning to continue our quest for the perfect pastel de nata and visit an art exhibit in the national palace. Unfortunately after walking all the way up the hill to the palace we learned that it’s closed on Wednesdays. So disappointing. We tried the pastel de nata at the famous pastelaria, Pastéis de Belém, but while we found the filling outstanding, the crust was not very good so it did not beat the pastel de nata from Pastelaria Nacional. We did learn however, that pastel de nata are really delicious with cinnamon, which came in handy when we visited a few more pastelarias on Thursday and finally determined the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd best places to get pastel de nata in Lisbon:
#1 Pastelaria 1800
Largo do Rato 7, Lisbon 1250-000, Portugal (Baixa)
This pastelaria seems small but it had yummy pastel de nata with tender, crispy crusts, smooth filling, and cinnamon on the table for sprinkling. Inside there is a cool tiled structure (it looks like a store front) from the 1800s when the pastelaria was started.
#2 Confeitaria Nacional
Praca da Figueira, 18B, Lisbon 1100-241, Portugal (Baixa)
This is one of the more well known pastelarias, with a more tea room-like atmosphere than many other shops and a wide selection of sweets. Though we tried a few other pastries here, the only ones we liked were the chantilly and the pastel de nata, which was right up there with the pastel de nata from Pastelaria 1800.
#3 Pastéis de Belém
Rua de Belem 84, Lisbon 1300-085, Portugal
Even though the crust was not great, the filling was so delicious I decided this place had to be on the list. As I said before, it’s a really popular touristy place- it was packed when we were there. If you get the pastries to go they put them in a little box and give you a packet of cinnamon and powdered sugar to top them with.
Overall, I found 2 factors really improve pastel de nata at any place: smaller size (1 and 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter) and lots of cinnamon! You should buy some cinnamon at a shop and carry it around with you just for this purpose 🙂
Though these places are great for pastel de nata, it doesn’t mean the other pastries are good there! It might just be that other Portuguese sweets are not to my taste, but I would keep in mind that any other pastries you get at the above shops are not guaranteed to be at the same level as the pastel de natas! Though I’m pretty sure the places I mentioned above are really some of the best, I think would take many more days and a lot more research to find the true winner of this food quest. Try these places out and let me know if you find one that is better!
On Wednesday afternoon we visited the most amazing little shop, A Vida Portuguesa (Rua Anchieta 11, 1200-023 Lisbon), full of uniquely scented soaps in art deco boxes, twinkling sardine tins, retro 1930s packets of flour and ground rice, shining candle holders and tiny strainers, embroidered pouches, and painted tiles. Brightly packaged products fill the wooden shelves that line the walls, and behind the counter, the shelves and the ladder leaning on them are covered in colorful woven blankets. The checkout counter features adorable little candies and tiny, brightly wrapped soaps. If you are a fan of gorgeous packaging or old fashioned things, this is the store for you.
On Tuesday we went to a really nice place called 100 Maneiras for dinner. We had a splendid tasting menu featuring a seafood salad, swordfish steak, duck confit, and veal cheek followed by a selection of tiny treats and a delightful fruit soup. My favorites were the fruit soup and the “seafood salad” which was really a piece of laminated octopus, breadcrumbs of breads flavored and colored with cuttlefish and squid inks, and small mussels and other bits of shellfish in a sea foam arranged on a platter. I’m not sure if they had it in mind when designing the dish, but for me the breadcrumbs represented sand and the foam represented sea. The fruit soup was so light and perfect! We were served bowls with a spoon holding a tiny vanilla macaron on a small bed of perfectly diced fruit in all colors. The waitress then poured the cool lychee juice “broth” into the bowls and it came perfectly up to the edge of the spoon so as not to touch the macaron. It was a perfect end to an amazing meal.
I had a lovely time in Lisbon, and I hope to come back some time! I’ll let you know how Brussels is tomorrow!