Portuguese delights

When Pedro Marcelino moved to New Zealand from Portugal, he and his wife were underwhelmed with the quality of the bread.

“We noticed that the bread in New Zealand was not that great, whereas the bread in Portugal is very good,” he said.

Marcelino quit his job doing IT for St Johns and moved back to Portugal for three months, training under a baker to learn the secrets of the trade. For the last three years Nata Portuguese Bakery has sat on Auckland’s Karangahape Road selling a wide range of Portuguese favourites. He says was inspired simply by the love of food.

“I’ve always like bread,” he said. “Portuguese bread varies region to region, because bakers all use natural yeast, and that will be different depending on where you are.”

The egg tarts (or ‘pastel del nata’) are the big seller for Nata – while Auckland’s Portuguese population only numbers around 400, New Zealanders have taken to the tarts in a big way. Marcelino’s tarts were named a finalist in the 2018 Artisan Awards, with the judges commending him for the crisp pastry and sweet filling. However, Marcelino admits that what he’s selling isn’t quite what you’d get in Portugal, although that largely comes down to local tastes.

“In Portugal the filling is far sweeter – just egg yolk and sugar. New Zealanders found it a bit too sweet, so we had to change the recipe to make it less so.”

The trick to the tarts is a hot oven – around 350°C, which can make the small kitchen behind the café incredibly hot, especially in summer. The kitchen was built from scratch by Burns & Ferrall, and Marcelino and one other baker make tarts not only for Nata, but for other establishments. Nata egg tarts are currently stocked in Farro Grey Lynn, sold alongside takeaway coffees and drinks. The tarts are also sold in various cafés and coffee shops around the city – Marcelino distributes them frozen for the café to thaw out.

For more information visit www.nata.co.nz or email info@nata.co.nz.