Getting lost in the city of Lisbon is easy, and something I would highly recommend to anyone who plans on visiting. Once the jewel in Portugal’s global empire, the capital is a maze of cobbled streets, ornately decorated religious monasteries and fortified Moorish castles that dominate the city’s skyline. But there’s much, much more to Lisbon than its picturesque setting and awe inspiring architecture.
As soon as the plane touched down on the scorching hot Lisbon runway, my thoughts turned straight to the icon of Portuguese pâtisserie – the famed pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tart). Tummy rumbling, I was keen to complete my mission as quickly as possible and immediately made the steep climb to the Barrio Alto district. I soon caught the enticing aromas of gently baking egg custard intertwined with subtle cinnamon spice from nearby Manteigaria. This bakery has truly perfected the art of making the delicate Portuguese pastries. Unlike the touristy Pastéis de Belém – home to the original Portuguese egg custard tart – Manteigaria offers the rare opportunity to watch every step involved in the making of pastéis de nata.
After liberally coating my oven-warm pastéis de nata in cinnamon I made my way to back of the bakery where I could get that unique glimpse into the open kitchen and became immediately entranced. Sitting behind the glass divide, I watched on in fascination as the patissier vigorously pounded chunks of butter into the pastry dough, before repeatedly rolling and folding it to create the intricate layered structure of these beautifully flaky pastry tarts. Meanwhile, trays upon trays of golden, caramelised pastéis de nata made their way straight out of the industrial sized oven and directly into the hands of expectant customers.