Lisbon: Waiting for Pasteis de Nata at the Antiga Confeitaria
One sweltering Saturday afternoon, Serendipity and I waited hours to taste the Antiga Confeitaria's famed custard tarts. Was it worth it? Read on.
The Marquesa lifted a forkful of sweet custard tart to her lips.
She let it slide slowly over her tongue, then swallowed delicately. Her eyelids lowered to half mast. “Pasteis de nata?” she said dreamily. “You can get them everywhere. But for the best, you have to go to Belem.”
The Portuguese definitely have a sweet tooth. In Lisbon it seems as if there’s a pastelaria or pastry shop on every block, sometimes two or three. All are full of sugary treats, but the custardy, egg yolk-based pastries created by nuns during the 17th century make the Portuguese heart beat a little faster. Some have delightfully celestial names such as papos de anjo (angel’s breasts) and toucinho do ceu (bacon from heaven)—the last also made in Spain where it’s known as tocino de cielo.
But of all the egg yolk pastries, Lisboans go completely weak at the knees for silver dollar-sized pasteis de nata (literally “cakes of cream”) that can be devoured in two or three bites. And of all the pasteis sold around the world, they are hands down most passionate about the ones from the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem.
Which is why Serendipity and I are now standing in a line with about 500 people on a hot Saturday afternoon, waiting to enter its hallowed doors.