A Definitive Ranking Of Dublin's Best Pastéis De Nata

In search of the perfect Portuguese custard tart.

Crispy on the outside, sweet and creamy on the inside...

If you’ve ever been to Lisbon, you have certainly come across these delicious mini custard tarts - and maybe even developed a slight addiction to them. They can now be found in Dublin, but are they as delicious as in the Portuguese capital? Élodie Noël investigates. 

Up until recently, the only place you could eat a pastel de nata was in Portugal, and more specifically in Lisbon, where this pretty little pastry originates from. But with the increase of tourism in the Portuguese capital and people falling in love with the local delicacy, pastéis have made their way around Europe in the past three years, and can now be found in Paris, London, Berlin, and Dublin. 



It’s in Belém, a small town located a few kilometres from the centre of Lisbon, that the pastel was created by the monks of the Monastery of the Jeronimos. Following their recipe, a nearby bakery called Pastéis de Belém started selling them in 1837. To this day, they still arguably make the best pastéis de nata in the world, but some other contestants, like the famous Manteigaria, also claim the title. 

While we usually translate it as a Portuguese custard tart, a pastel de nata literally means “cream pastry”. It is a mini pie comprising of an extraordinary crispy and flaky base (much crispier than a traditional puff pastry) with a spiral shape on the bottom, filled with a sweet creamy custard (runnier in texture than a flan) with subtle hints of lemon and cinnamon, and often topped with a dusting of ground cinnamon.

 

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So, how good are the pastéis de Dublin? I put them to the test, and the main outcome was that unfortunately, a severe lack of crispiness let down the vast majority of the contestants. The texture of the custard wasn’t always right, but there weren’t really any bad one - some were just slightly more flavourful than others. The winning pastel came from Butlers Chocolate Café, combining a nice crispy base and a tasty custard. The Cupcake Bloke provided a lovely little pastel which could pass for a real Portuguese one. For the full results, see below. 

1. Butlers Chocolate Café

Multiple locations 

Price: €2.20
Look: 3.5/5
Crust: 4/5
Custard: 3/5
Taste: 3/5
TOTAL: 13.5/20 

Verdict:
While it’s lacking the black caramelisation on top of the custard, the lovely noise of flakiness that it makes when I cut the pie is a good sign: it’s a nice leafy crust. The custard has a pleasant texture and good flavours. 

2. The Bakery by The Cupcake Bloke

The Cupcake Bloke

The Cupcake Bloke

461 South Circular Road, Dublin 8 

Price: €2.20
Look: 4.5/5
Crust: 2/5
Custard: 3.5/5
Taste: 3/5
TOTAL: 13/20

Verdict:
This pastel is still warm when we buy it from the bakery. It looks beautiful, with the characteristic black caramelisation on top and the spirally bottom. Unfortunately, the crust turns out to be very soft. The vanilla flavoured custard is lovely.

3. Tesco

Tesco

Tesco

Multiple locations 

Price: €1
Look: 4/5
Crust: 3.5/5
Custard: 2.5/5
Taste: 3/5
TOTAL: 13/20

Verdict:
The supermarket chain definitely offers great value with this product. The crust is flaky and crispy, there is a slight shine on top of the custard and overall the taste is nice.

4. Dunnes

Dunnes

Dunnes

Multiple locations 

Price: €1
Look: 3/5
Crust: 2/5
Custard: 3/5
Taste: 4/5

TOTAL: 12/20

Verdict:
The top is lacking a bit of shine, the pastry has a good flake. It could be crispier, but the lovely vanilla taste from the custard makes up for it. It’s a good value product.

5. Liberty Kitchen

Liberty Kitchen

Liberty Kitchen

77 Francis St, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8 

Price: €2.50
Look: 4/5
Crust: 3/5
Custard: 2/5
Taste: 2.5/5
TOTAL: 11.5/20 

Verdict:
This pastel served in this small Dublin 8 café comes from Lumley’s Bakery in Inchicore. It looks nice, with a lovely shine on the custard. It is flaky and makes a good crispy noise when cut. Unfortunately, the flavours are a bit weak. 

6. Lidl

Lidl

Lidl

Multiple locations

Price: €0.79
Look: 3/5
Crust: 2.5/5
Custard: 3/5
Taste: 2.5/5
TOTAL: 11/20

Verdict:
The crust looks fine with a good flakiness, but the overall taste is quite plain. The value however is unbeatable - you can get 3 for €2. 

6. Avoca

Avoca

Avoca

11-13 Suffolk St, Dublin 2

Price: €1.95
Look: 4/5
Crust: 1/5
Custard: 3/5
Taste: 3/5

TOTAL: 11/20

Verdict:
While the idea to put berries on a pastel is a bit strange, the fruits were actually lovely and ripe. The texture of the crust is quite disappointing, with a real lack of crispiness, but the custard has a nice taste with hints of vanilla. 

7. Bowls

Bowls

Bowls

56 Marlborough St, Dublin 1 

Price: €2.80
Look: 2/5
Crust: 2/5
Custard: 2/5
Taste: 3/5

TOTAL: 9/20

Verdict:
This pastry is enormous compared to the other ones (explaining the higher price point). There is no spiral shape at the bottom and the crust isn’t crispy. The texture of the filling is quite dense and overall it tastes more like a mini flan (albeit a nice one) than a Portuguese custard pie.

This article was originally published by our sister site, Food&Wine

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