Before the king of Portugal got shot at the turn of the last century the royal family here loved a bit of bling. One of the most popular museums in Portugal is the Royal Coach Museum which is stuffed full of centuries old gilded and ostentatious horse drawn transport. A new state of the art complex to house it all was opened just last week and we must be one of the first film crews to be allowed access to it all. We had the huge concrete spaces to ourselves for the first hour or so, and used it to dress me up as Game Show Man and march around getting up to our usual nonsense as the museum curators looked on wondering what on earth they’d let themselves in for. Once I was back in my normal presenters clothes we took a slightly more conventional tour around the coaches – but only slightly since we were running with a Cinderella theme about us being scared that the coaches might turn into pumpkins (Vic spent the entire item hobbling about in glass slippers).
But it was the afternoon I was really looking forward to. From as far back as I can remember one of my favourite foods has been custard tarts, and we were heading to the Belem Patisserie. It’s famous for making the best custard tarts in all of Portugal and their secret recipe stretches back hundreds of years. They sell an average of 20,000 tarts a day (their record is 55,000)!
Once again I had to get into costume as I took on the role of our new character – Rene Mange Tout, a domineering know all food critic. Victoria and one of the head tart makers had to go head to head making tarts while I stood over their shoulders berating them for their lack of custard tart knowledge and trying to find out the secret recipe from confused bakers. They even have a specially labelled secret room where the only 3 people to allegedly know the recipe prepare the ingredients for baking (Vic and I began to suspect that the secret is that there IS no secret recipe…).
Of course you can’t get to the end of the process without sampling the goods, so once I’d devoured a tart on camera I tucked away another 2 in our coffee break. They are seriously tasty, no denying it. Probably not worth the hour in the hotel gym I spent afterwards though attempting in vain to burn them off…