You know how when you go on holiday as a group, there’s always something that a travel buddy of yours has learnt from “a friend” of theirs that is just a must see? Your travel buddy just has to see it? Sometimes those tips do turn out to be proper little nuggets. This is what happened with Pastéis de Belém. H, the lovely chappie you last saw dancing his heart out in the travel video of the Porto Gallery Hostel review, stated that we absolutely must try to visit the famous Pastéis de Belém on the outskirts of Lisbon. This place was apparently famed worldwide for its traditional Portuguese style pastries. Lovely little custard type cakes sprinkled with Cinnamon and Sugar. For once, I am glad I listened to the big lad.
I remembered having tasted something similar at a Portuguese food stall in a street market once. Seemed like a good idea to get to the original source of it. It was on! On the day we were leaving Lisbon for the mountainside we drove to Belém, a suburb of the capital city. After a little bit of searching around for the “Pastry Shop” we spotted it across the road:
From the outside it seemed just like so many other shops that we had come across over the past few days in the country. That opinion quickly changed. It was lunch time and the place was P.A.C.K.E.D. We decided to walk around the place before joining the queue at the till. It wasn’t a pastry shop, more like a pastry house! Many rooms, quite a few with tables spread around inside where patrons could sit and enjoy the sweets and savouries (oh yes, savouries! Not just sweet pastries are sold there), rest rooms and then the best place.. a whole wall made of glass where the visitors could have a peep inside the kitchen where the famous pastries were made. Check this out:
We finally made it back to the entrance where the queue now stretched onto the street outside. We joined it expecting a good half hour wait and were pleasantly surprised a few minutes later when we were served (service was surprisingly fast.. not something we were used to in Portugal). The way it is done at Pastéis de Belém is that the customer has to make the payment at a counter and is given a token. They have to then take that token and present it to one of the beautiful Portuguese ladies behind another counter close by, where all the food is kept. The food is served out to you on little plates at that second counter. The customers can then take their purchase and make their way to one of the rooms with tables in them to sit and eat there at leisure, or alternatively, they can ask the beautiful Portuguese ladies to pack up the food for a takeaway.
Here is a prize photograph of what we came for. Yummy, traditional, Portuguese pastries, so fluffy and not overly sweet.. just the way I like them!
The other lads in the group even packed up some food for later. It wasn’t the cheapest food we had bought in Portugal, but for a one off experience, it was definitely worth it. I also liked the whole atmosphere inside the place. People chatting around, families with kids, Portuguese folk out at lunch, ceiling fans twirling overhead, the white mid-day heat outside and the warm breeze that wafted in through the windows. Perfectamundo!
The video below captures the essence of the experience, including a nice shot of JohnnyB tucking into a super fluffy Pastéis de Belém and giving it his seal of approval.
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