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.

Interior of Sweet Belem

The vibe is unpretentious and cosy; elder locals and young families gather around like it’s a weekly ritual.

Portuguese raspberry tarts from Sweet Belem

Current seasonal variations are raspberry and passionfruit but there’s always a soft spot in my heart for the classic Belem tart.

Portuguese passionfruit tarts from Sweet Belem

Portuguese raspberry tarts from Sweet Belem

Sweet Belem Portuguese bakery in Petersham

Entrance of Sweet Belem

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.

Coffee and Portuguese tarts at Sweet Belem Petersham

Sweet Belem
35 New Canterbury Road, Petersham, NSW
Phone: (02) 9572 6685

Sweet Belem on Urbanspoon
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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.

Dancers and performances on stage - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Audley and Fisher Street are now unrecognisable from their usual suburban facade. Barbequed courico, terracotta tapas-ware and churros stalls dot the street.

Chourico - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Traditional tableware - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Churros - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

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.

Portuguese donuts and various sweets - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Serendipity icecream - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

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.

Salted cod croquettes- Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Line of sangria - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Chilli plants at table - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

More traditional servingware - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Bucket loads of tapas and petiscos (Portuguese tapas) provide the perfect platform for a DIY roving tapas crawl.

Potato and egg omelette - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Flood Street - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Sagres beer - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

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).

Smoky BBQ - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Churrasco - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Chargrilled chicken - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Naturally, we couldn’t resist the peri peri chicken

Peri peri chicken - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Or the gigantic pans of fresh made seafood paella, which despite being mass-produced, is exquisitely flavourful and not at all overcooked.

Seafood paella pans - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Paella- Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

Lots of people - Bairros Portugues Petersham Festival 2014

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

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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.