Pau de Canela, Lisbon

Avenida da Igreja 2, 1700-204, Lisbon, Portugal

On a combined business/vacation trip, I flew into Lisbon around lunchtime on my first ever trip to Portugal. Lisbon’s airport is very close to the city centre, and even closer to my hotel in the Entre Campos neighbourhood north of the city centre. So close that rather than take a taxi or the metro, I decided to walk from the airport to the hotel. The distance was not a problem, but the day was hot and sunny. Before we left, Mrs Snot Block & Roll had suggested that we could stop about half way and have a drink at a cafe. Checking on Google Maps, I had located a likely sounding cafe named Pau de Canela (“Cinnamon Stick” in Portuguese), with good reviews.

Portugal is famous for its traditional custard tarts, the pastéis de nata, but when we arrived at the cafe what caught my eye were some intriguing looking vanilla slices. They were labelled “mil folhas”, which is clearly the Portuguese equivalent of “mille feuille”, so that was a good start. Mrs SB&R ordered a coffee and grabbed a mil folhas for me. No sausage rolls in sight, alas, so it seems we still have a thing or two to teach the Portuguese about baking.

Pau de Canela

The slice has a traditional looking construction although it is quite flat and the custard is a thin single layer sandwiched between two very thick sheets of flaky pastry. The custard is a very dark yellow colour, darker than almost any other I’ve seen, and there’s not a lot of it. The pastry looks nice and flaky, and is topped with the traditional white icing with brown swirly pattern running across it diagonally. The slice is supplied on a plate with a knife and fork. Being in a foreign country, I’m a bit reluctant to commit a diplomatic faux pas by eating it wth my hands in front of a busy cafe crowd, so I rely on the cutlery.

Vanilla slice: Pau de Canela

The pastry is indeed flaky but has unfortunately lost its freshly baked crispness. It still has some firmness, not having gone fully soggy, but is just lacking that crunch. The custard turns out to be rather unusual. It’s thick and dense and very eggy. It has strong vanilla flavour, which is good. The icing is a bit thick and overly sweet, it could really have been thinner. Overall, it really needs more custard, and more crunch in the pastry, but it tastes pretty good.

Vanilla slice: Pau de Canela

Later I learnt that a common filling for Portuguese desserts is a paste made from cooked egg yolks and sugar. This “custard” could easily have been just that: mashed egg yolks mixed with a lot of sugar, rather than a more traditional custard. It was worth trying, but it deviates a little too far from a traditional vanilla slice and suffers a bit in my rating for that. I’m hovering between a 5 and 6, and am tipped over by the impressively good value price of a mere 0.90€.

Mil folhas: 6/10

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