When you are in Portugal, it is crazy to miss this food item and it is almost like coming to Singapore and not eating Chilli crabs. I personally have a sweet tooth and egg tarts are one of my favourite desserts. Portuguese egg tart on the other hand is not so much to my liking or at least until I tried the original ones. The ones i tried in Singapore or Macau is either overly sweet or the pastry is soft and oily. So when every guide mention that the world’s best Portuguese egg tarts are in Lisbon, I had to give it a visit.
You can instinctively know it is the most famous shop as you come near it by the super long queues outside the shop. The Pasteis de Belem is touted as the best Portuguese egg tart in world by many and this has locals and tourist alike flocking to the shop to have a taste of this heavenly dessert.
The beginnings of the shop dates back to the nineteenth century in a small general store which is attached to the sugar refinery and located next to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (the Heironymite Monastery). Due to the reforms in 1820, monasteries and convents were shut down and in order to survive, the monks from Mosteiro dos Jerónimos offered sweet pastries for sale in the shop.
These pastries rapidly became known as ‘Pastéis de Belém. As more tourists visited the Tower of Belem and the monastery, visitors were also quickly attracted to the taste of these pastries. In 1837, the baking of the Pastéis de Belém began in the buildings attached to the refinery, following the ancient ‘secret recipe` from the monastery. This recipe remained unchanged to the present day with a scrupulous selection of ingredients to offer the same taste from tradition.
When we arrived at the shop, we were totally overwhelmed by the super long queues. There was one shorter one for take away and another for dine in. The queue usually starts from outside of the shop all the way to the inside of the shop where you can see diners eating. This queue in the picture is the start of the queue. When the queue is long, it is pretty organised and there will be someone to direct you to available tables. We waited approximately 30 mins to 45 mins for a table.
While queuing, you can actually pass the factory where you can see the fresh egg tarts being baked and left to cool before serving or packing. The entire shop is filled with delicious aroma of fresh pastry baking. Don’t ever queue of you are hungry as the smell will make you even more hungry
Once you are seated, a server will take your order and you can order drinks and egg tarts and some other cakes on the menu. Of course we only ordered the egg tarts and some tea to balance out the meal. While the exterior might not be all pretty as there are some black parts but once you start, you can never stop. The service was also pretty fast and took only 5 mins for the tarts to arrive.
The tarts were served warm with a nice melt in your mouth pastry crust. The center of the tart was milky, soft, moist and very slightly runny. One tart was about 5 to 6 cm in size and can be devoured in 2 bites or 1 for some people. I think no other words can describe them except that they are absolutely the best Portuguese egg tarts in the world. It was so good we ordered another set immediately. There is no regret for the long queue and wait although a take away could have been faster but I’m not sure if the quality will be the same after packing.
I have only 1 advice: if you love sweet pies and desserts, this is something you have to try before you die. Being the pioneer in Portuguese egg tarts, Pastéis de Belém does not disappoint.
Note: We noticed some locals just grabbing their own seats or table without queuing so maybe that works too.
Address: R. de Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Operating hours: 8 am to 11 pm