Mother and daughter team Armanda da Luz and Mell van Wichen have opened Cafe Pastel with a singular focus: crunchy, gooey Portuguese tarts or pasteis de nata.
Da Luz is a pastry chef who was born in Portugal, and she knew that the Perth baking scene was missing the classic treat. “We wanted to keep our first brick and mortar venue simple,” da Luz tells Broadsheet. “People in Perth love coffee, and a Portuguese tart is the perfect accompaniment. It’s small, sweet and texturally interesting.”
The tiny, takeaway-only shop opened in October, next to cocktail bar Ezra Pound on William Street. When seeking a location for the business, Northbridge was the only place the pair looked. They felt their product would be right at home on the fringes of Chinatown – former Portuguese colony Macau (on China’s south coast) is known for its own riff on the tart, and Guangzhou is the birthplace of Chinese egg tarts – and they also admired the produce-first focus of other businesses in the area. “When making something with so few ingredients, they have to be the best ones,” da Luz says. “Produce and products matter here.”
The tarts are baked every 15 minutes and achieve their glass-like crisp pastry using Western Australian and New Zealand grass-fed butter, while the silken texture of the custard beneath the blistered, toffee-like top is credited to the eggs that only come from WA farms. “It’s local eggs that give our custard it’s colour. The yolks are like nothing else,” says da Luz. As for the excess whites? “We’re hoping some of the neighbourhood cocktail bars will take them off [our] hands,” she adds.
The tarts come in two flavours: traditional with a hint of cinnamon and one with salted 72 per cent dark chocolate. The salted chocolate, a suggestion from van Wichen’s French husband, was initially resisted by da Luz. “Mum is the traditionalist, and I’m the new age, wanting-to-experiment-person,” van Wichen says. But demand for the chocolate version has made it a permanent fixture on the menu. Van Wichen also teases a possible Biscoff option in the future, and one with fresh strawberries for Valentine’s Day.
3/201 William Street, Northbridge
Mon to Tue 8am–5pm
Wed to Sat 8am–9pm