The whole country is still under attack from 100 mile an hour winds and torrential rainfall. I hadn’t been out of the house for what seemed like a year, apart from the journey to work and back…
It was time to break the seal and undo the dead lock on the front door. What made this whole prospect much more palatable was the promise of some Pastel de Nata – Portuguese egg custard tarts. They seem to be everywhere recently, most of them average- chewy pastry and tasteless custard, but apparently this place ‘Nata and Co’ is the mecca of all things delicious and contraband for the weight conscious – the place to drink strong coffee and gorge on baked goods. Pastel de Nata were apparently originally made by Monks, who seemed to have a lot of egg yolks left over after cleaning nun’s habits and clearing their Porto with the whites. Lucky for us.
After a very sensible Friday night we arrived early to the bakery and were greeted by a lovely Portuguese lady and a very handsome chap in Chef’s whites. I asked him for a pic, seeing as he’d probably been out back for 10 hours already, toiling away to bring us these treats laid out before us. He declined with a sweet smile and a sparkle in his eye. The space has some seating around its edges for you to enjoy a cup of the very delicious, strong but not bitter coffee on offer. However your eye is immediately drawn to the pretty enticing array of baked goods at the back of the store.
We decided to get straight into the eating. There were so many different things to choose from, we asked for some help deciding what to eat after finding out what was what, and went for some savoury salted cod fish cakes – I think they are called ‘Bolinhos de Bacalhau’ and some sort of cheese, ham, onion and tomato Brioche breaded delight. It was like a pasty – so close to our Welsh hearts – but the vehicle was a beautifully textured, slightly sweet brioche type roll filled with tomatoes and sweet caramelly onions that still had some bite and texture, salty ham and a melty, sticky cheese. DELICIOUS. The salt cod cakes were crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside, a savoury delight. Don’t be scared by the “salt codedness” of it all, they weren’t fishily frightening or over-seasoned. Eat them.
We brought home an every day loaf, something else stuffed with ham and chorizo and cheese and slowed cooked onions and …. you get the picture, some of the famous Pastel de Nata and some stuffed chicken croquettes, which I know are called Coxinha in Brazil and so are probably called the same thing in Portugal, I think…
The Pastel de Nata numbers were decreasing before our very eyes, at least 5 people came in, ordered in Portuguese and left with boxes of them. I’m not flippin’ surprised, the crisp, flaky pastry stands as a great contrast to the luxurious egg custard, with it’s slight darker more caramelised parts giving a depth of flavour. I imagine mamãe back home in Portugal will be happy to know that any of their Cardiff living offspring are being well looked after- in want of a comforting taste of home.
Make some time, go to Clifton Street in Splott, drink some coffee and chat to the staff to find out what’s what and eat something – eat everything. You won’t be disappointed. I will be returning next week in my elasticated trouserwear.
Don’t take my word for it, give it a go, you’d be a Nata not to…*groan*