Ask any Lisboeta (someone from Lisbon) about Pastelaria Versailles and they’ll know it. Housed in an old building on one of Lisbon’s main streets, Avenida da República, this patisserie is a classic. If cafés were people, Versailles would hang out with A Brasileira and the Confeitaria Nacional (this last one being my all-time favorite). While there are plenty of cool, trendy cafés and patisseries in town where you can enjoy delicious sweets, these three “old ladies” have stood the test of time for a reason.
You’ll open the heavy Art Nouveau-style doors (even though Versailles actually only dates back to 1922) and the first thing you’ll notice is the noise. Personally, I love it. It invokes in my mind the image of a Lisbon I never knew: the hustle and bustle of businessmen who wore hats and discussed politics, ladies who sat together in long skirts for tea and conversation, all the while streetcars going up and down the street. The mirrored walls, intricate ceilings and feature clock transport me back in time.
When you walk in, you find people standing at the counter drinking their bicas (an espresso), possibly with a pastel de nata or some other pastry, on their own or talking to a friend. You come to Versailles for the food. I really enjoyed one of the salads but my favorite was the cordon bleu. Oh, and I devoured the delicious creamed spinach (esparregado is a common side at Portuguese restaurants). I got some meat croquettes to take away (to share, of course) and they did not disappoint – some of the best croquettes I’ve had in a while.Onto pastries: their pastry counter, which runs along a significant portion of the restaurant, makes deciding what to eat a lot trickier than it should be (when it comes to food, I dread difficult decisions). How are you supposed to choose between croissants, madeleines, fruit tarts, creamy doughnuts, coffee-flavored puff pastries, merengue, almond and egg doces conventuais and a large assortment of cookies? Oh, did I mention they also do cake? I personally like the red fruit mousse and the strawberry-jam filled butter cookies (bolacha inglesa) but I haven’t even come close to trying all their sweeties. Yes, it did take me five minutes anxiously walking back and forth, asking the poor assistant questions and pointing at which ones I wanted in my take-away box. In my defense, it was a big decision; I couldn’t be rushed!
Not staying in Lisbon all that long and don’t have time to try Pastelaria Versailles? Well, you’re in luck: last time I flew out of Lisbon, I noticed a new Versailles had opened up at the airport! That particular location focused more on sandwiches and ready-to-eat foods than the original one (understandably, given the nature of airports). However, it did have a sit-down area with gorgeous decor reminiscent of the restaurant for you to enjoy slow, hot food. If you’re the kind of person who likes to take their time at airports, this is a great meal opportunity for you. It doesn’t feel like you’re in an airport at all! It’s an ideal way to say goodbye to a beautiful city. Bon apetit!