While the French are known for impossibly delicate and flaky pastries, the Portuguese prefer denser eggy and sugary cakes. The Portuguese take on the croissant is much the same. We heard that Pastelaria Benard had a reputation for the best croissants in Lisbon we were eager to try them (though we did not know what difference a Portuguese croissant would have in store for us). Pastelaria Benard (Rua Garret 104) is located right off of Largo Camões in the heart of Lisbon’s atmospheric Bairro Alto, right next to A Brasileira, one of Lisbon’s most internationally famous cafes. Benard, though less touristy, is just as antique, and practically exudes history.
In the old Pastelaria there is an entire shelf of croissants that are piping hot – fresh out of the oven – so we figured we were in for a treat. However, we were a little confused upon first bite. Yes, these so-called croissants were quite good, but nothing like the classic French croissant we have come to know and love. In this rendition, the dough is cakey and rich like a brioche, not flaky at all! At first we thought we perhaps ordered wrong – but they had given us two straight off of the “croissant shelf.” Though the alleged “croissant” was good in its own right, we are surprised the Portuguese have not given this confection another name, especially since the Portuguese have such creative names for their sweets. However, we have also seen French-style croissants in Lisbon also being called by the croissant moniker (or at least they appeared flakier than this). Very confusing! So be warned, pastry-philes looking for a croissant in Lisbon – you could be ordering a different treat altogether!