I haven’t posted in a long while, but to make up for it, here’s a quick list about the one thing that almost everyone in the world knows about Portugal…. the famous pasteis de natas!
Susete and I have definitely done some hardcore research on this, from learning how to make them, their origins at the monastery in Belem, and finding the very best that exist. My belly proves it. After all this, I can confidently say that we’ve found that best of the best… it will probably ruin these gems for me when we’re back in Toronto, where the “best” is actually quite average in comparison.
Make me a promise though… I’ve been promoting Portugal and it’s cuisine for a few years now, trying to share my love for it, and it seems to have been working (of course, not all on my part), but it’s getting to the point where things are TOO popular. The guidebooks say go somewhere, and now thousands of tourists line up at these places, pretty much ruining them for any local. I’ll share my findings, but please… travel respectfully. The massive lineups to take a load of photos and check it off the list, is getting tired fast.
Enough ranting, and on to the list you’ve all been waiting for!
THE BEST PASTEIS DE NATAS IN LISBOA
The absolute perfect balance of a warm, creamy custard center held inside a puff pastry shell that is buttery, crisp and flakey. These guys got it right. Skip the trek to Belem with all the other tourists… Manteigaria absolutely wins for the best nata we’ve found anywhere in the world.
TIP: There’s also a second location inside the popular Mercado da Ribeira. They’re great too, but nothing compares to hot out of the oven at the original spot.
ALOMA (Campo d’Ourique)
If you really want to get to know Lisbon, go where the locals go. The trek out to the local-centric Campo d’Ourique neighbourhood is worth it, not only for the great market they have there, but also for what I consider to be the second best pasteis de nata in Portugal. Aloma is a small local café serving up various treats and great coffee (of course). Here, you’ll really see local life in full operation.
I would put these natas as just slightly behind Manteigaria’s, but it’s a very close second, and NO tourists lining up. Oh yeah, and apparently every old lady that walks in the door is named Maria.
FABRICA DE NATA (Baixa, various locations)
At first, it surprised me to think that a chain spot can have some of the best quality product, but this is no normal chain. So far, there’s only a couple locations in the downtown Lisbon area, but my favourite one is the unique location at Praça de Restauradores. There’s a great rail track that runs around the ceiling of the whole spot, carrying pasteis mold trays around and around. In my opinion, Fabrica de Nata sits in one slight tier lower than the first two places listed above, but in no means is it low level. The natas here are great, and I’d still put this one as superior to anything we have in North America.
NATA LISBOA (Baixa, and various locations around Portugal)
Right now, this is the only true chain in the group. Nata Lisboa has locations in cities spanning the country, and is easily recognizable by the trademark black awnings on their locations that read, “The World Needs Natas”. I agree.
Just like Fabrica above, I was surprised that a chain can produce a higher quality product, but these guys know what they’re doing. While they may not be the best of the bunch, they’re consistent, and you know you’ll get something yummy when you’re wandering the country and miss these treats from Lisbon.
NOTE: I’ve only done the top 4 favourites, because although you can find pasteis de natas everywhere in Portugal (yes, even at Starbucks), these are really the only 4 places that I would rank as much better quality that we can find at home in Toronto. The rest are just mediocre.