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Friday, January 28, 2005

Sweet Belem, Petersham

The pasteis de nata is the king of custard tarts... flaky buttery pastry, an eggy cooked custard interior and a caramelised golden-brown complexion combine to create the perfect mouthful.

Chinese daan tart theories aside, the generally accepted birthplace of the pasteis de nata is the local pastry cafe Antiga Confeitaria de Belem on the seaside outskirts of Lisbon.

Photo courtesy of VirtualTourist.com

[Insert shameless travel-dropping here].

Yes I've had the pleasure of eating the real McCoy at the Belem cafe and yes the experience has so far been unequalled. Still-warm tarts straight out of the oven, pastry so flaky it's almost earthshattering, and shakers of icing sugar for extra sweetness on every table.

So I have a self-confessed weak spot for the humble Portuguese custard tart and was delighted to discover Sweet Belem in Sydney's Little Portugal a year ago.

A large painting of the Torre de Belem dominates and Portuguese-style blue and white tiles adorn the tables and wall.

Sweet Belem offers a number of pastries, slices, tortes and cakes... this one's for pinkcocoa!

But it's the pasteis de nata we're after. If you time your visit well, you should be able to pick up these tarts from Joao de Almeida fresh out of the oven... still warm, yet irresistably flaky. And I would have to say that if you like your pastry extra buttery and so crispy it sounds like you're eating a bag of crisps, then these babies are for you!

At $1.70 each, they're a veritable bargain. Particularly when coffee shops in the City regularly sell soggier versions for at least $3.00.

The pasteis de nata at Sweet Belem do come topped with a genereous sprinkle of cinnamon, adding a pleasant spiciness.

The tarts here are a little more expensive than the ones from Fernando Ramos and Carlos Fernandes at La Patisserie a few doors down, but for this pastry fan, they're worth every penny.

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Sweet Belem
35B and 35C New Canterbury Rd, Petersham
Tel: +61 (02) 9572 6685

Opening hours
Wednesday to Saturday 8.30am - 5pm
Sunday 9am - 4pm

This has been included as a Rewarding Adventure on Grab Your Fork's Top 10 Sydney Eats for Tourists. Read the entire list here.

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Petersham - Costa Do Sol (Portuguese)
Petersham - Perama (Modern Greek)
14 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (AugustusGloop) on 1/28/2005 11:59:00 pm


  • At 2/02/2005 11:12 am, Blogger Ben said…

    To paraphrase:

    "When I was in Portugal last year..."

    Very la-di-da! :)

    Well when I was in Petersham two months ago I tried this place and I thought it was pretty good too.

  • At 2/02/2005 12:26 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi BHR - Touche! I did warn everyone though.

    And no, it wasn't last year :P I was there in 2002.

  • At 2/02/2005 1:47 pm, Blogger Ben said…

    Yeah - fair call. What was Portugal like?

    I came across a fabulous (not a word I use lightly) blog by an English expat living in Portugal:

    vitriolica webb's ite

    Take a look - she's very talented.

  • At 2/02/2005 1:58 pm, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    awwwww..how sweet of you, AG! *sob sob* Now now, I am going to send this post to my bf as a big big hint for valentine's!!! :"p

    There was a short heat wave of pasteis de nata (we called it portugese tart in Taiwan) in Taiwan about 4 years ago, I think. And even KFC was selling these tarts! The wave died down soon and I haven't seen much of the tart around anymore!

    okie. noted this down. Gonna try head to Petersham one day. And again, I have not been to Petersham!!!!

  • At 2/02/2005 2:01 pm, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    Oh yeah and I forgot to mention you sure are one little devil!!!! Seducing me with a pinkcocoa's cake you know I can never ever resist!!

  • At 2/02/2005 2:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    oh yes, these Portuguese egg tarts are indeed delicious. There was a craze for them here in SG about 6 or 7 years ago. One bakery introduced these tarts, they became a huge hit, and many other bakeries mushroomed to sell these egg tarts too. It was sheer madness. People queued to buy the tarts. But the craze fizzled out as quickly as it started. Now, I hardly see these around.


  • At 2/02/2005 10:51 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi BHR - Portugal was great. We enjoyed it as one of the cheaper countries in that area. I probably prefer Spain though. Seville and Barcelona still rank as two of my favourite places in the world.

    I had a look at vitriolica's blog too. Great etches.

    Hi pinkcocoa - Drop as many hints as necessary! You deserve it!

    Yes I think the popularity of pasteis de nata seems to come and go in waves (like most things I guess).

    Make sure you have a BBQ Portuguese chicken too whilst you're in Petersham. Extra piri piri.

    And I'm not a devil! Just a freelance agent...

    Hi Julia - Seems like the pasteis de nata craze swept SE Asia big time. They are very similar to daan tart so I can see why they'd be popular.

    I still like them though. They have to be almost burnt on top though! Caramelisation is my best friend. I guess that's why I love creme brulees too!

  • At 4/04/2005 8:16 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi there,

    I'm new to your site and it has been nice reading about your food adventures.

    I went to Sweet Belem after reading your post and I must say the Portugese tart was lighter and more refined than other tarts I have tasted. Nice but different~

    Oh, and it was so annoying that the lady was highly fussy about how I shouldn't be taking pictures. Quite a turn off .. My brother kindly pointed out how little diff it would be from taking pictures of the takeaways we bought.

    Just wondering if any of you food bloggers had similar experiences?

  • At 4/04/2005 11:24 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Anonymous - Thanks for the kind comment and glad you are enjoying the site.

    The issue about permission to take photos has come up a couple of times on different blogs and it would appear that everyone has had proprietors or staff freaking out at some point in their photographic travels.

    Whether they're paranoid that spies are gathering competitive data or so on, some people I know have taken the step to confess to having a food blog--outlining their intent to publish photos for the foodblogging community and politely pointing out the potential marketing (not to mention free!) opportunities for the vendor in question.

    Once people hear this, many have visibly relaxed and thus granted permission.

    I've never had a problem taking photos of food I've ordered at the table but I am aware (and experienced) some people getting nervous/huffy about decor and interior shots.

    You might have pointed out to the woman at Sweet Belem that it was a photograph on another foodblog site that prompted your deliberate visit! =P But que sera sera. It's their perogative... there are plenty of other delicious foodstuffs to photograph!

  • At 4/05/2005 5:44 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hey hey i got the fussy lady too and she didnt like me taking fotos so i just took a foto of what i bought. its a shame realli because it seems like we're all boosting the ppl going there! oh and i went to rise finally! thanks so much for blogging about it!

  • At 4/06/2005 12:01 pm, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    hey people
    I did not get the fussy lady when I was there. I got the owner (he's the one making the portugese tart) rocketing out from his kitchen and told us no photos were allowed at all unless you asked. We politely offered to delete the photos but he said it's fine but also told us if we wanted photos, we could have asked first.
    I was going to post about Sweet Belem but ha! I got too lazy. Besides AG did a good post here. :)
    On other note, I was told by a lady at Max Brennan that even photography of the food at our table is not acceptable for copyright reason.

    AG, do you actually tell those shops/owners that you are putting it on your blog? At one time, I took out my heavy accent from home and pretended I wanted to show my parents what wonderful food they had here in Oz! But *sigh* I have been told off so many times, I am wary about taking photos, even the food we are eating on our table! Maybe I just looked too sneaky!!

  • At 4/06/2005 2:57 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Suze - It does seem a shame... they mustn't realise the passion and celebratory joy with which foodbloggers share their findings!

    And great to hear you went to Rise. I should be eligible for VIP status with the number of people I've sent them! =)

    Hi pinkcocoa - Wow. It seems like Max Brenner doesn't want any word-of-mouth publicity. I've never heard of photographs being banned at the table. Even at Lindt Cafe they politely but firmly stopped me from taking interior shots but said shots at the table were ok.

    I've mentioned to some restaurant owners that I have a foodblog but no, that's not usually my opening line! I usually try and be quite discreet without looking too suspicious, and often just a 'is it ok to take photos?' suffices.

    I suppose in this age of mobile cameras it will become harder to harder to prevent people taking photographs. It's a shame our intention as foodbloggers is misinterpreted but as I'd said before que sera sera.

  • At 6/22/2008 9:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I went here on my bus ticket tour of Sydney as well. It was actually for dessert after Petersham Charcoal Chicken opposite (I could live on their peri peri sauce) and the tarts were as good as you said.

    Of course, the ones in Macau are better.... (actually they weren't, but it's where I got into portuguese food, try A Lorcha if you're over there)

  • At 7/08/2008 11:55 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Mr_Gimlet - I really wanted to go to Macau the last time I was in HK but ran out of time, alas. And mmm... now I have a craving for Portuguese chicken followed by pasteis de nata!


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