Porto is the second stop in the Try Somewhere New podcast series with Ryanair, presented by us! Listen to it below or find it in your usual podcast app.
I am not a pastry person. Or a sweet-tooth sort of person for that matter. When travelling I will leap head first into all manner of savoury delights, but offer me cake for breakfast and I'll likely go hungry instead.
There is however, one exception to this rule: pasteis de nata.
To the uninitiated these may seem like a simple cinnamon-dusted custard tart, but to me, they represent burnt sunshine yellow parcels of happiness. And on each visit to Porto, I have made it my unofficial goal to eat as many as possible.
First created by monks more than 300 years ago as a way to use discarded egg yolks (apparently the nuns were quite partial to a bit of egg white for starching their habits), the Portuguese pastries are now as iconic as the azulejos that cover the country's buildings.
But you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who will tell you exactly how they make them. Shrouded in secrecy since the monks sold their recipe back in 1834, every pastry chef in Portugal has their own very specific method for creating the creamy custard filling and the wondrous layer upon layer of perfectly crisp pastry.
And so, if you can't learn how to make an authentic pastel de nata, the only other option is to spend your time in Porto trying out the very best the city has to offer.
Unsurprisingly, this was a challenge I was very happy to undertake!
Locating your next pasteis de nata hit is not difficult; you will find them in confeitaria windows and cafes all over the Porto. And whilst we'd absolutely encourage you to sample as many as possible, there are two essential stops on your itinerary to try some of the city’s finest.
Located opposite the old Bolhao Market, Confiteria do Bolhao has been a Porto institution since 1896, and a spot which thankfully remains wonderfully authentic and popular amongst locals and visitors alike; it's the perfect place for a rest, a small cup of strong black Portuguese coffee and a plateful of pasteis da nata. They of course do take out too, but our recommendation is to head to the art deco mirrored cafe towards the back, put your phone away, and just listen to the clatter of plates and chatter of gossip and pastry orders in a place that is very much part of the fabric of the Bolhao neighbourhood.
On the same street as Confiteria do Bolhao (which may or may not mean we went straight from one plate of pastries to the next...) Manteigaria - meaning butter shop - is a bright and modern pasteis da nata factory and café that's proving very popular with locals who claim these may well be the most decadent offering in the city. Whilst a tad too sweet for our liking, the custard to pastry ratio was bang on the money (told you I take my natas seriously!). The atmosphere isn’t quite as enjoyable as the old cafe just a minute or so down the road, but the clear glass fronted factory at the back allows you to take a sneaky peak at how they are made.
Just don't ask the chefs their secret.
To get some inspiration for your own city break, listen to our Porto episode for the Ryanair Try Somewhere New podcast series!