Even at 8am on a Tuesday morning there’s a flurry of activity behind the glass storefront at Saudade’s newest location in the Central Market. Co-owner Carla Alemao explains breathlessly to Broadsheet that this is actually one of the more tranquil days she’s experienced since the store’s opening in late April: Fridays and Saturdays have seen seemingly never-ending lines spilling out of its Grote Street entrance and wrapping around the pavement as dozens of customers wait eagerly to get their hands on Saudade’s singular Portuguese custard tarts.
“It’s been amazing, beyond our expectations,” Alemao says with a smile. “We obviously thought it was a good location and we thought it would be a good spot to be, but there was the combination of Mother’s Day, Tasting Australia. The novelty of it has also helped, but the reception and the support has been absolutely mind-blowing. So we’ve been running around a lot more than we expected. Last Friday I had to go back to the Mitcham store to make pastry to bring back here … but it’s a good problem to have.”
It’s a homecoming for Alemao and her husband Miguel Alemao, who co-founded the Saudade brand as a pop-up in the Central Market back in 2017 to bring the traditional tarts of their homeland to Adelaide (a sentiment reflected in the name: “saudade” is a Portuguese word that roughly translates to a feeling of nostalgic longing or yearning).
The tarts are scorched in specially constructed Portuguese ovens at 400 degrees Celsius to achieve the optimum caramelisation of the egg custard. The flaky puff pastry is a recipe Alemao has tinkered with for years – she says it’s gone through more than 10 different incarnations in Saudade’s five-year lifespan. When discussing what makes the tarts so special, Alemao stresses it’s a combination of all the elements, “but I think the pastry makes all the difference,” she says. “It’s a puff pastry recipe that came from Portugal, but we had to adapt and adjust so many times because of everything you can think of: the flour, the butter – so now it’s actually become our own recipe over time.”
The initial success of Saudade’s Central Market pop-up led to a thriving bricks-and-mortar location in Mitcham Square Shopping Centre a year later, before the team moved to another space inside the centre a year after that. As business grew, they began to look at further expanding in early 2020, with a city location an obvious and ideal destination. But the dream of a permanent Central Market spot had been on their minds from the beginning.
“I always thought about the Central Market as a possibility,” says Alemao. “When we were looking for the first store, we asked but there was no option here at the time … And when this opportunity came around, even though Covid was still around, we had to take the risk. We knew what a bonus the foot traffic and the potential of the location could be. I think the product is good enough, and we have the support of everyone in the community.”
Saudade is serving locally roasted Segafredo coffee alongside their tarts, but that’s it. And the Mitcham store isn’t going anywhere any time soon, despite the worries of some of their patrons. “Everyone in Mitcham was asking, ‘Oh, are you moving now?’” Alemao laughs. “But we told them, ‘No, no, it’s just a new store, we’re just spreading the love around’.”