Carlos Torcato and Stephanie Agnew opened Royal Bakery mid-2018 in Rose Bay. Those in the know say the tarts, known in Portuguese as pastel de nata, are just like kind you find in Lisbon: crumbly, brittle, custardy, not overly sweet, slightly blistered and charred on top, and just viscous enough – you can cut one in half and the custard won’t spill out like an ice-cream sandwich on a hot day.
Torcato puts in a staggering amount of work to make the tarts. Rather than buying frozen sheets of pastry, every layer of the flaky dough is shaped, lathered in butter and folded by him or his assistant Ricardo Rodrigues (who owned his own patisserie in Portugal before coming to Australia). It’s then rolled into a spiralled log like an unbaked swiss roll, but with twice the lamination.
The logs are then cut into medallions, which are dextrously caressed into tart shells. Inside goes a sweet eggy custard, one slightly lighter in colour and flavour than the rich yellow tarts at Belem and Tuga. It’s a homemade custard in the style made by Portuguese monks 500 years ago.
Back in Portugal, Torcato worked in sales for the country’s biggest pastel de nata exporter, which might churn out up to 200,000 frozen tarts in a week. When he came to Australia in 2014 he did a similar job at a baked-goods wholesaler. For his own business, he’s opted for a radical departure, baking everything fresh and rolling pastry by hand.
During the week that means pastel de nata, bola de Berlim (fluffy doughnuts with custard fillings), coconut brioche rolls and a range of more locally inspired goodies, pies and sausage rolls. Visit on the weekend and you’ll find the full Portuguese range: jesuitas (triangles of puff pastry layered with cinnamon and sweet cream), chorizo rolls, almond tarts and flaky palmiers.