Through the backstreets of Macau to Margaret’s Café e Nata

The Grand Lisboa as seen from the fortress, Macau.

A view of Macau today with the towering Grand Lisboa as seen from Monte Forte.
Photo © C M Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010

When in Macau, what hits you first are the ostentatious buildings, mostly casinos to attract all sorts of tourists. And some people frequent Macau with what I find in slight irony for masochistic reasons, the gamblers for a purpose and the non-gamblers for the sheer delight to revel in what they are not.

But Macau, rich in its history and currently known for its distinctive blend of Portuguese-Chinese culture ingrained into the administrative and education system of the region, is also known for its food.

Café e Nata, Macau for Portuguese egg tarts.

Highly reviewed and written about, though more difficult to locate for first timers in Macau.

In this post is a discovery of some of the most sumptuous Portuguese egg tarts in Macau, tucked away in a highly unlikely corner of the region in Gum Loi Building – Margaret’s Café e Nata.

I thought the café unlikely because of the manner in which I found it. Bundled in a car by relatives and driven to a nearby parking area that wasn’t exactly nearby after all, we walked through busy main streets, crossed several large junctions where the golden glint of the Grand Lisboa loomed large before us, not to be missed by anyone and as if out of nowhere, shuffled into a back alley that though sunny, looked the complete opposite of all that glittered in Macau.

Branded Signs in Macau.

One side of Macau’s golden coin – abundant luxe.

Even the grandeur of the name Patio Do Comandante was a curiosity because while far from squalid, the buildings in this back alley seemed to be in desperate need of upkeep. I couldn’t help but marvel and absorb the contrast of bright and dull, of new and old, of ostentatious and so very…simple.

Patio do Comandante Mata e Oliveira, Macau, behind Café e Nata.

Patio Do Comandante Mata e Oliveira.

Preoccupied by these two faces of Macau that I could so vividly witness to the point of tasting it in the air, I fell out of sync with the group and they soon had to come back for me at Patio do Comandante and see if I was indeed alright, and that I could find my way further to the café – these tarts were after all not to be missed and it was mandatory that we got our Portuguese egg tarts from this particular café, of the hundreds of cafés and bakeries in Macau.

Backstreet to Margaret's Café e Nata, Macau.

View of a building, along the backstreet to Café e Nata, Macau.

It was just past 9 am in the morning and it being a working weekday, the café was reasonably half filled with a swift crowd moving in and out of its nondescript corner entrance. A relief to my relatives because depending on the time of year and time of day, you could find yourself in a snaking queue to the egg tarts with nothing to be had anyway since they’ve all sold out. “All people in Hong Kong know of this place!” my cousin told with raised eyebrows, partly bemused yet none too pleased of the treasured find by others.

Café e Nata

Small corner entrance of the café.

Since sampling the Portuguese egg tarts from Café e Nata, I have admittedly not found another in like quality or sumptuousness in those subsequently bought in the region or back in Singapore.

Portuguese egg tarts, Margaret's Café e Nata, Macau.

Macau’s culinary treasure – golden Portuguese egg tarts!

Those golden tarts with a slight charred top basically killed off too, any cravings I’ve ever had for non-Portuguese egg tarts. A serendipitous discovery through the back lanes of Macau? I haven’t as yet come to any solid conclusion on that one. What I do know is, I need a recipe. One that is authentic!

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