Johannesburg

Pasteis de nata paradise – Casa das Natas at The Troyeville

22 May 2024
You might know about the legendary reputation of The Troyeville for its Portuguese cuisine, its delicious peri-peri prawns or chicken, beef espetada, or lip-smacking calamari and sardines. But if you haven't visited in a while, you might have missed the fact that it's also the home of excellent pasteis de nata, those mouthwatering traditional Portuguese custard pastries. 

In fact, this is where the flagship of the brand Casa das Natas, which has permanent homes in Rosebank and Sandton, was born. 

Pastel de nata (pasteis de nata for the plural) is iconic in Lisbon, where the most famous brand Belem attracts queues of hundreds of people each day for these freshly baked treats. 

The smells wafting from the fabrica (factory) in the back at Casa das Natas are the first indication of the pastry selection lining the bakery's counters. Beautifully baked to reveal a crisp, layered puff pastry shell and delicate custard filling with a caramelised top, these are not your average natas.
 
Beautiful layers of puff pastry made at the Casa das Natas bakery at The Troyeville. Photo:  Winifred Harms

The brainchild of co-owner and managing director of The Troyeville, Raul Lima, and his partners Fernando Duarte and Robbie Brozin of Nando’s founding fame, Casa das Natas was founded in 2021, as part of the regeneration of what was then The Troyeville Hotel. 

“[We wanted to] reinstate the iconic premises that would bring people back, because there is a lot of history around here,” Lima says over an espresso from the Casa das Natas counter. In setting out to revive the landmark first opened in the 1930s, the intention was to draw people back to the area and invest in the community at large.  

When thinking of what to do in the space previously occupied by The Troyeville Coffee Shop, the idea was born to do something unique to bring a bit of Portugal to the historically Portuguese-influenced establishment.

“[We wanted to] reinstate the iconic premises that would bring people back, because there is a lot of history around here.”


As such, they set out to find the best recipe. Their search took them to many of the local establishments baking and selling natas around town and eventually they headed to Portugal, where they spent many a day sampling the best on offer in Lisbon.

“I can’t tell you how many natas I ate on a daily basis. I think I ate between 15 and 20 a day visiting all these places. That’s all I did for about three weeks, on two occasions,” Lima confesses.

Their delicious research led them to Juan Bitallia, a young, fifth-generation baker who has won numerous awards in Lisbon for making the best natas. On Lima’s request, Bitallia came to South Africa and spent six months trialling, researching, developing a recipe, and training bakers from scratch. And so Casa das Natas was born. 
 
Casa das Natas is a great stop for a morning meeting or coffee with a nata or two. Photo: Sanet Oberholzer.

Their first store opened in Sandton City in 2022, when Covid made it seem like a mad person’s persuasion. This was soon followed by stores in Rosebank Mall, Mall of Africa, and Tyger Valley Shopping Centre in Belville, Cape Town. “Who in their right minds, during Covid, had this kind of vision and was brave enough to invest money with this huge amount of uncertainty? And here we are, three 'young' guys in their sixties, reinventing something, trying to bring something new and fresh,” Lima says with a smile.

It was only in October last year that Casa das Natas opened at The Troyeville at their original headquarters and wholesale bakery, the true home of the brand.

The windows look out onto Albertina Sisulu Street and the accessibility from the main entrance on this side of the hotel makes it a popular stop for patrons of The Troyeville Restaurant who pop in to grab a few natas on their way out. In the morning, people gather to have meetings or to simply enjoy coffee and a nata or two (three or four are also acceptable), and over weekends, it’s a popular pit stop for cyclists.
 
The natas are made with fresh ingredients and no preservatives. Photo: Winifred Harms

The café sells no food other than freshly baked Portuguese rolls to make up for the lack of bakeries in the area, but the beauty of Casa das Natas lies exactly in this: doing something simple with great flourish.

South Africans love a bit of flavour so even though it’s not very traditional in Lisbon, they decided to cook up a range of interesting assortments. They have the Classic Lisbon (which we suggest you start with to fully appreciate the craftsmanship) but have also introduced mint chocolate, chilli chocolate, and orange chocolate (our favourite after the classic) as well as berry, apple cinnamon, and the Decadent Chocolate variety made with Nutella (yes, it’s a winner).

All fillings are made from scratch with natural flavours and no preservatives, and the proof is without a doubt in the pudding. These natas are fresh, wholesome, and bursting with flavour. They also bake vegan versions of the Lisbon Classic and Decadent Chocolate natas and all their stores are halaal certified.
 
Beautiful packaging in which to take your natas home. Photo: Sanet Oberholzer.

We’re always looking out for you and thought we should mention: if you spot sachets of cinnamon, icing sugar, and cocoa powder in the casa, do not mistake these as additives to your coffee. As we’ve learnt, these are to add to your natas as per your preference.

If you pop in for lunch at The Troyeville, you can order natas directly from the restaurant but it’s worth a stop on your way out. Beautiful sleeves make for unique packaging to take your pastries home and it’s quite the treat picking out your flavours from the counter. You’ll have a hard time picking just one and it seems only fair that you sample all before claiming to have found your favourite. If it seems a little over the top, just remember: Life is short. Eat a nata. It's a motto we can certainly support. 

The Troyeville has guarded street parking at the front and back entrances and they recommend parking on Wilhelmina Street, located at the rear of the hotel. The front entrance is useful for e-hailing and taxi drop-offs and pick-ups. The best route to the hotel is to take the highway east to the Joe Slovo exit at Maboneng, move into the left lane, and drive straight along Albertina Sisulu Road to The Troyeville. An alternative is to travel via Sylvia Pass, driving past Cyrildene and Bruma. Hook a right on Albertina Sisulu Road.

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Related Events

Sunday Jul 21 13:00–17:00
Live At The Troyeville – WONDERboom

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