When I landed in Lisbon, I had three things on my mind: check into my hostel, get lunch, eat pastéis de nata at Manteigaria. And that’s exactly what I did during my first 2 hours in the city.
If you know anything about Portuguese food, you’re aware that pastéis de nata are a national treasure. Portuguese bakeries pride themselves on making these egg custard tarts with artisanal expertise. I, of course, did plenty of research ahead of time to find out where I could eat the best pastéis de nata in town and Manteigaria regularly came up as a favourite amongst locals and visitors. For another eat-like-a-local experience, don’t miss my post about bifanas!
I visited Manteigaria’s shop located on Rua do Loreto, at one of the corners of Praça Luís de Camões (Camões Square). The interior is small and narrow, designed for take away tarts or brief moments of pastel de nata enjoyment. There is often a crowd at the entrance eager to get their hands on these traditional delicacies, but don’t worry, the staff are efficient and the line moves quickly.
If you have time to enjoy some pastéis de nata on the spot, order your tarts (yes plural, get more than one) and take them down along the narrow corridor where there is standing bar space. Behind a glass pane, you can watch the bakers swiftly shape the pastry dough into shell cases, pour the custard, and bake them in the oven. The bakers are making the tarts constantly throughout the day to keep up with the demand, so there’s no shortage of baking demonstrations for visitors!
Thanks to my very early wake up for my flight, I arrived at Manteigaria around 1:45pm desperate for coffee and the famous pastries. I ordered a latte and one tart to enjoy at the counter and this came to a total of €2.80. I was shocked at how cheap it was – tarts are only €1 each! Also, what was I thinking only ordering one tart?! Having just eaten lunch, I played it safe by ordering just one. Silly girl. But don’t worry, I quickly rectified the situation. After taking one bite of the first tart, I knew I had to have another. There was no way I was leaving the shop without enjoying more! The woman behind the counter wasn’t at all surprised when I ordered my second pastel de nata… It must be a regular thing.
As per tradition, pastéis de nata are best enjoyed with a modest sprinkle of cinnamon and icing sugar. Of course, this is optional, but I do find that these garnishes enhance the pastel de nata experience. The icing sugar adds a subtle sweetness while the aromatic cinnamon complements the creamy filling. Shakers for both powders are readily available at the counter and if you buy tarts to take away, they provide you with small packets of each in the box. Thankfully, they’ve thought this through for our benefit.
Back to the part where I eat the tarts… so I should mention that these tarts are DELICIOUS! The pastry shell is wonderfully flakey and the custard filling is divine. After having eaten pastéis de nata from 3 different bakeries, I learned that each bakery puts its own spin on the recipe of the famous treat. At Manteigaria, the custard is slightly sweeter than its counterparts elsewhere, but I loved it because the smooth filling boasted the right amount of sweetness for me. The tarts aren’t so sweet that you can’t have more than one in a single sitting (clearly!). In fact, they’re very moreish.
On my last day in Lisbon, I called into Manteigaria again to buy a box of 6 to take with me back to Edinburgh. If the food experience can live on past the holiday, I’m gonna make it happen! The 6 pastéis de nata were packed tightly in a narrow rectangular box (perfect for travel) and at €6, it’s absolutely worth it! In the 3 days after my trip, I happily consumed the tarts. Just some time in the oven makes them taste fresh again; it’s the next best thing to being at the bakery itself. Though if you do this, be sure not to refrigerate them (staff told me this compromises the quality of the tarts).
Bottom line: when you’re in Lisbon, make it a priority to visit Manteigaria for a taste of these beautiful hand-crafted treats. It’s not a proper visit to Lisbon without them!
- Cash only.
- Buy 6 to take away with you before your flight (open daily).
- Locations: Rua do Loreto (near Praça Luís de Camões) and at the Time Out Market Lisboa.