Portugal’s most famous sweet treats are the pastéis de nata. We already knew to keep an eye out for them when we got to Porto, but then these sweet little egg custard tarts were hard to miss. Also called pastel de nata, or just “natas”, they decorated the front windows of pastry shops all over the city. We would grab a few from one of our neighborhood bakeries for about 75 cents each on our walk home from the gym (what better way to replace those calories we just burned?). The locals tend to have them with coffee. We liked them best in the evening with a glass of tawny port. Either way, we thought they were pretty good no matter where we bought them…until we had them at Manteigaria.
We were walking to the Bolhão Market, only to find that it is closed for a two year renovation. Fortunately, our day turned around when we saw the Manteigaria Fábrica de Pasteis de Nata on a nearby corner. Manteigaria is a pastelaria from Lisbon, where pastéis de nata originated sometime before the 18th century. Catholic monks from the Jerónimos Monastery in the Lisbon neighborhood of Belem made the pastries from leftover egg yolks. They used the egg whites to starch their clothes. When the monastery was closed in 1834, they sold the recipe to a local sugar refinery which opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in 1837. While this was the original shop to produce pastéis de nata, I frequently see opinions that Manteigaria offers stiff competition for making the best.
Manteigaria arrived in Porto in July 2017 in collaboration with Delta Q coffee, a Portuguese capsule coffee company. A previous Delta Q coffee store was renovated to include the bakery. You can watch them making the pastéis de nata through the glass, from kneading and folding the pastry dough, to filling the tarts with custard. They come out super fresh and warm from the oven.
We ordered two Delta Q cappuccinos and two pastéis de nata, sprinkling them heavily with the cinnamon provided on the tables. These were incredible, far and above those that we bought at the neighborhood bakeries. The pastry crust was so flaky and delicate it threatened to collapse under the weight of the custard; luscious creamy custard that oozed out onto our fingers with the first bite.
And so began numerous trips across town just to procure a 6-pack of pastéis de nata to get us through the next few days. Yeh, now I understand how people could eat these every day.
R. de Alexandre Braga 24, 4000-252 Porto, Portugal