Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lisbon Airport Dining

My visit to Lisbon concluded at, well, the Lisbon airport.

Airport dining may not normally be high on anyone's list of things to get excited about, but I read online that Terminal 1 had a great new food court, featuring actual good versions of Portuguese baked goods, from some famed establishments from the city.  I of course welcomed this chance to get “one last pastry” before jumping on my TAP Portugal flight, where I knew the food choices would be abysmal.

Although I didn't have much time in the airport before boarding, I managed to scope out all the options, and visit not one, but two bakeries to get a pão de deus from each, since I discovered that I loved them at A Padaria Portuguesa at the end of my trip.

Pastelaria Versailles

I started at Versailles, the one I had read the most about.  It is a cafe that has been around since the 1920s, apparently with amazing elegant ambiance (think: crystal chandeliers, marble counters) at the main location in Lisbon.  I didn't visit the real cafe, only the airport location.  
Display Case.
The display counter was loaded with a fairly small selection of treats, far fewer than what I was used to from swinging by bakeries around town.

I was planning to get one last Bolo de Arroz, after being fascinated by the one from Sacolinha, but the ones at Versailles didn’t really look good.  I also had my eyes on one last pão de deus, but, alas, they didn’t have any plain ones, just ones stuffed with ham and cheese.  It wasn't quite what I wanted, but is what I went for, knowing I could discard the fillings (or, perhaps be a more reasonable human and actually have some protein with my sweets?)

The ordering/payment system was kinda crazy.  You order and pre-pay at one counter.  That made sense.  No card reader, but, they do take credit cards, they just have to pull out a machine every time.  For an airport location, this seems crazy.  Then, you are supposed to know to take a few steps over, put your receipt onto a tray, and then someone else will go begin fetching your goods.  If you, like me, just throw your receipt into your pocket, your stuff will never come.  Sigh.

Then your stuff is put onto a tray eventually, and you are supposed to be watching and grab it, as nothing is ever called out when your order is complete.

To recap: no orders are sent to be filled, no orders are called out when ready.  I struggled with strange ordering/paying/pickup systems all over Lisbon, but this was certainly the worst.

I was not the only one who was confused by all of this, as I watched everyone around me mess it up.  Anyway.
Pão de Deus Misto. 3.95€.
"Ham & Cheese Coconut Topped Bread".

I had only had two pão de deus at this point in Portugal, and was eager to get one last data point.  I loved the absolutely dreamy one from A Padaria Portuguesa, but I knew that was actually not the authentic style, as it was softer and had more of a coconut paste on top, and was not crispy.  I also had the horrible ones from the Sheraton Lisboa Bistro Restaurant buffet, hard and stale, but, I have a hard time believing those were a legit version either.

This one seemed to be more like what I read about.  The top was a bit crunchy and the bread was still fairly soft, basically a cross between the two versions I previously had.  The dough wasn’t particularly interesting, soft but not fluffy, not really sweet.  Better than the Sheraton version in that it wasn’t stale and it wasn’t hard, but, no where near the perfectly lightly sweet fluffiness of the one from A Padaria Portuguesa.  Same with the top - definitely not like a paste like the one from A Padaria Portuguesa, but not quite as crispy as the Sheraton one.  There wasn’t as much topping as the A Padaria Portuguesa one, but, again, I think this was a more authentic ratio.

Overall, kinda boring, honestly, but I think this is what the bun was supposed to be like.

The ham and cheese were just a thin slice of each.  No spread of any sort, aka, mayo or mustard, to jazz it up.  I’m not sure I understand the combination of sweet coconut bun, ham, and cheese, although I guess Monte Cristos are a mix of sweet with ham and bread …

Anyway, I was glad to have one last chance to try the version that I think is representative of what they are supposed to be, but, alas, I just wished I had one more of the dreamy, soft, fluffy, not authentic ones.  Ojan however said, “that is one of the better Portuguese desserty things I’ve had”. Later, he said, "That was pretty tasty, it was like honey ham, but, with the honey in the bread!".  So, I guess it had its place.

Pastelaria Aloma

I’m a strategic person.  Although I was grabbing the pão de deus to take on my TAP Portugal flight to Paris, I tried a bite immediately just to make sure I’d like it, else, I had to make a backup plan.

If you couldn't tell from my review above, well, I didn't really like it (not tons of coconut topping, crisp top, soft but not very sweet nor fluffy bread).  I really wanted something more like the version from A Padaria Portuguesa.

So, I hightailed it to another bakery in the airport, Aloma.
Croissants, Local Specialties, Sandwiches.
Aloma too had a display case loaded with goodies.

They had pastel de nata baked on site.  While literally every single merchant had nata, these folks had ovens, right there, in the middle, and they were coming out hot.  This seemed much more promising.

And ... they had pão de deus!  The pão de deus looked softer, fluffier.  And there was only one plain one left, over with the croissants on the far left.
Sandwiches, Croissant Sandwiches, Pão de Deus Sandwiches.
I quickly jumped into line to order the last one, hoping no one before me would get it.  That said, they also had a ham and cheese stuffed one, and plenty of those, so, I could have gone with that to compare.

This shop's ordering made sense: you ordered from one person, they got your food, and you paid there.  No crazy multiple lines, putting out your receipt, etc like Versailles.
Pão de Deus
This pão was indeed closer to the one from A Padaria Portuguesa.  It was softer, the dough sweeter than the Versailles version.  Not quite as soft, not quite as dreamy as the A Padaria Portuguesa one, but I’m pretty convinced that no where else’s compares to that.

The top was also soft, not crisp, and more like a coconut paste.  Again, not quite as good as the A Padoria Portuguesa version in that there wasn’t as much topping, and it wasn’t as sweet, but, still, I really prefer this to the authentic crispy style.

So, overall, it was ok.  If this was the first pão de deus I ever had, I probably wouldn’t have tried another.

Turns out, the first one I ever had really was the best, I should have just stopped there.
Pastelaria Versailles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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