If your only exposure to Portuguese food has been Oporto, then re-live Petersham’s annual Bairro Portugues food and wine fair with me in this post. The 2014 event was held a few weeks ago on Sunday 16 March 2014, 10am – 6pm.
Canterbury Road in Petersham is widely known as Sydney’s Little Portugal so imagine the festivities if they have to block off two additional streets for the fair!
Advertised to start at 10am, I arrived on the dot and found that most stalls were still setting up. It was the perfect excuse to duck into Sweet Belem, which hands-down offers Sydney’s best pastel de nata Portuguese tarts.
The vibe is unpretentious and cosy; elder locals and young families gather around like it’s a weekly ritual.
Current seasonal variations are raspberry and passionfruit but there’s always a soft spot in my heart for the classic Belem tart.
Served straight from the oven, it feels like a privilege to be able to have them still warm. The pastry is amazingly crisp and buttery, the first bite is always a moment worth pausing. Dusted with just the right amount of cinnamon, bite through the ‘skin’ to indulge in a creamy custard filling. The balance is spot on, not too sweet nor eggy; it just beckons us to have another round.
35 New Canterbury Road, Petersham, NSW
Phone: (02) 9572 6685
By the time we finish our coffees and tarts, we could hear the festival picking up outside. Cultural dance groups and live bands inject a lively buzz on stage as crowds begin to filter through the gates.
Audley and Fisher Street are now unrecognisable from their usual suburban facade. Barbequed courico, terracotta tapas-ware and churros stalls dot the street.
For the sweet tooth, there are doughnut-like desserts called Bola de Berlin, palmier recheado (sweet pastry filled with egg custard), folhado de gilda (pumpkin cake), biscoitos de amendoa (almond biscuits) and more. Serendipity ice-creams‘ van also makes an appearance from its nearby Marrickville factory.
It’s impossible to walk around empty-handedly with so many temptations from various Portuguese colonies. In one hand, we’re carrying a paper bag of Bolinhos de Bacalhau (salted-cod fritters) and in another, a refreshing cup of sangria.
Bucket loads of tapas and petiscos (Portuguese tapas) provide the perfect platform for a DIY roving tapas crawl.
Heartier dishes include churrasco grilled meats and feijoado, a combination of chourico, bacon, pork, onion, spices and red kidney beans, served with arroz de refogado (yellow rice).
Naturally, we couldn’t resist the peri peri chicken…
Or the gigantic pans of fresh made seafood paella, which despite being mass-produced, is exquisitely flavourful and not at all overcooked.
The Bairro Português fair has been running for 12 years and counting, and according to Portuguese in Australia, about 17,000 people attend this annually for a taste of Portugal in Sydney!
For more information, visit marrickville.nsw.gov.au/en/outandabout/events/bairro-portugues