Pastéis de nata would win ‘custard tart battle’

An article published online by The Guardian newspaper has named the Portuguese ‘pastel de nata’ the clear winner if there were ever to be a fight between the Portuguese and British versions of a custard tart.

“If it were a team sport, the Portuguese would thrash us,” writes the author of the text Julian Baggini, writer and founding editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine.

Baggini even cites a Fado song by Leonel Moura to describe the Portuguese custard tart: “Served with cinnamon or just as it is, this beautiful delicacy has no equal in the world.”

The author recommends visiting Lisbon’s Pastéis de Belém, a “family-owned business which has been making the tarts since 1837 and serves up to 50,000 a day in peak season.

“They are distinguished from other pastéis de nata by their slightly salty and extremely crisp puff pastry – partly from being baked at 400ºC – and the custard, made only with milk, not cream, which is less sweet,” the author wrote, stressing that they are “reputed to be the world’s best”.

In comparison, Baggini writes that “British tarts use the less flavoursome shortcrust pastry, which doesn’t provide as much textural contrast with the smooth custard.

“They are also topped with nutmeg, which fails to bring the custard alive as Portugal’s cinnamon does. Worse, they are now almost all mass-produced with palm oil-based pastry,” the writer laments.