It was one of the few hot days this summer, and I use the latter term loosely. Exiting a car park with particularly narrow spaces and a driver whose reverse parking is concerning, we rounded a corner, and came upon, as one happens across a vision, the delight that is Nata & Co Portuguese Bakery and Cafe.
As soon as we ventured inside, we saw shelves stacked with all manner of heavenly breads, rolls, cakes and pastries, not to mention warm trays of the famous Pastel de Nata, and we realised we had stumbled upon a jewel.
Nata & Co sits on the edge of the old part of Cardiff Bay, moments away from the heaving crowds and new bars by the waterside. It lies in the shadow of some of the spectacular old buildings from the area’s golden age, when Cardiff Bay was Tiger Bay, and coal was king.
Sitting down in the rear cafe area of the long, light, relaxed-feeling room, we were both smiling and looking around in a slightly dazed fashion. It was an unexpected find, although I had heard tell of a legendary Portuguese bakery elsewhere in Cardiff, and was keen to try the famous Pastel de Nata, a cup-shaped, egg custardy pastry tart.
It turns out that the original Nata & Co was in the Splott (I love that name) area of Cardiff, and that a third has just opened in the city centre, so we have a veritable empire of sunny pastry on our hands, and in our mouths. To paraphrase Nata’s website, ‘Go and visit, your taste-buds will thank you!’
As we consulted the menu on a mini-clipboard, we became aware of beguiling savoury smells emanating from the open-plan kitchen, just beyond where we were sitting. We had intended coffee and a Pastel de Nata, but it now became clear that an early lunch was called for.
I opted for the Bifanas, delicious, tender, garlicky pork cutlets, served in a slightly flattened, vaguely fish-shaped homemade bread roll. My companion went for the Panado, breaded turkey in a similar roll. Both were polished off quicker than you could say Portuguese diaspora.
We sat and daydreamed a while, observing the other diners, making use of the free wi-fi, and enjoying a top notch coffee, while planning what pastries we would procure on the way out.
This little place was a delightfully unassuming pleasure, cool yet warm and friendly, with lovely Portuguese staff and no mention of Ronaldo. Look out for one on your high street soon.