Cheeseburger Gothic

The Oxford Street Tart

Posted May 11, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

Hands up everyone whose mind went straight to the gutter. Right. Off to the naughty corner with you, because you do not deserve to enjoy this flaky, eggy little flavor bomb of goodness. My little friend here, the Portuguese custard tart from the Oxford Street Bakery is one of the reasons I get through so many podcasts and audiobooks. If you're going to cultivate a serious hungry for these things, and it's almost impossible not to, you’ll need to be spending some time on the treadmill too. These tarts are the preferred food of the blubber eel which is forever trying to take up residence around my tummy regions.

Two minutes of heady pleasure. Two hours of treadmill pain.

But, one caveat. It’s not really a Portuguese custard tart, is it? Not because it was baked about million miles from the monastery at Santa Maria de Belém, the spiritual home of the Pastel de Nata, but because it’s just all wrong. The pastry is wrong. The egg custard; wrong. The slightly burned skin which is the mark of a true nata? Not even there.

And yet… God help me, I have come to prefer these ones. The sweet, soft crust pastry has a much more predictable consistency and although it lacks the crunch of a properly executed Portuguese custard tart, nor does it suffer from the problems of inconsistency, irregularity and simple shoddy fucking pastry skills which so often ruin the experience elsewhere.

I love these things. They are my treat of the week. From Monday to Friday as I grimly mutter “No bakery treats no bakery treats, step away from the sweet treat cabinet you fool”, it is the prospect of inhaling one on the weekend which keeps me honest. I try to get there early enough to score one fresh from the oven, when they are at their best, with a thin skin barely holding in the gooey just set custard. With a strong coffee they are an almost perfect start to the day.

I’ve always been a fiend for custard tarts. My mother tells me I threw one of my greatest tantrums as a child when I was forced to abandon a half eaten tart to run for a bus, or something. The reason for the abandonment hardly matters, does it? It was principle of the thing.

I still love and appreciate a good, traditional stodgy Anglo tart, with the wide, almost biscuity base and a sprinkling of cinnamon, and I’ll always save room at Yum Cha for the Chinese version – of which there are two types, the Chinese of Macau being influenced by their former colonial overlords from… Portugal. But there is nothing to compare to having one small simple serving of custardy awesome in one hand, and a decent cup of java in the other.

54 Responses to ‘The Oxford Street Tart’

Nick swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2013

As ever your blogging tool renders your fine prose almost unreadable in my RSS thing by inserting seemingly random characters. - you’ll - for example.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2013

That's tiresome. What kit are you using to access?

coriolisdave has opinions thus...

Posted May 12, 2013

Dunno about Nick, but I'm seeing it on Google Reader (and TheOldReader, given GR's imminent demise). Have been meaning to mention it for a while.

Daniel Young is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2013

Same here in The Old Reader, very annoying. Probably the XML in the RSS feed is wrongly encoded.

Nick reckons...

Posted May 13, 2013

I'm on both Reeder on iPad and GR and old reader. Sometimes posts get too hard too read - which is a poor reflection on my attention span.

coriolisdave mutters...

Posted May 16, 2013

And it's fixed! Awesomesauce!

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 16, 2013

I thought you were talking about your lack of custard tart.

coriolisdave reckons...

Posted May 17, 2013

Alas, no. Every time I plan to get over to Bulimba I am stymied by the Spawn.

One day, though, they will be mine. Oh yes. They will be mine.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2013

Yeah, they're good, but I can't get past the Oxford bakery without taking one of their orange & almond cakes with me. Although the lemon and polenta cakes are good too.

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Mark Duffett puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2013

Two minutes? If they're half as good as you say, I'd be eking it out for at least twenty.

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mondoworld swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2013

I guess a worldy gent such as yourself is fully across the Yum Cha warmed custard tart of the type scoffed by the thousand in Fortitude Valley...

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damian puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2013
They the place with the deli out back? Some decent cacciatore to be had there.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 11, 2013

Nah, that'd be Sugo Mi you're thinking of I reckon. Quite decent pizzas. In fact between the two of them and Sushi Mura that pretty much covers your only choices on that strip.

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DrYobbo is gonna tell you...

Posted May 11, 2013

Not a big sweet tooth, but that could convince me to change my ways. About to crack into a pork pie from Who Ate All The Pies, who do excellent work in these parts.

HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2013

chocolate éclairs are her go Doctor!

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w from brisbane asserts...

Posted May 11, 2013

Custard, custard, custard.
Bee Sting cake!!!! Yum, yum, yum, yum. yum.

Aaaarggh!! Stop thinking!

.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted May 11, 2013

Oh that looks good. I, too, have a weakness for egg custard pastries. And I simply love the Chinese restaurant version.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted May 11, 2013

Portuguese bakery in Bondi Junction does a very tasty rendition. Coffee is drinkable as well.

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Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted May 11, 2013

Just back from the markets with a couple of salted caramel tarts, some little rum babas and some half and half canolis. Sadly I have to share them and there were no other little tarts there. Except this one who was straddling her bf under the lighthouse . . .

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damian mutters...

Posted May 11, 2013
Ah well I'm sipping wine to recover from my breakfast not so much of champions, but rather of ruthless hereditary-dictator overlords. This involved turkish buns of the kind that resemble a miniature ciabatta, dijon mustard, leftover salad with garlic-and-yogurt sauce from last night, also leftover "steakette" hamburgers, sliced in half so as to be half rather than inch thick, and slices of a light rennet-free cheese - all grilled (broiled) slowly to warm through the leftovers.

One day this balance between exercise and diet will work out, some way or other.

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Bunyip has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2013

If any of you are down here in Bushrangeryland, don't go to the Wesley Hill Bakehouse in Castlemaine.They only make so many baked custard tarts a day, and I don't want to miss out because of you.... itinerant pastry scoffers.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 12, 2013

Oh, I can't have one? You're trying to discourage me from getting one? Then I must have one.

It is the American way. I'm not kidding. It is a cultural trait to want desperately what someone discourages you from having and to strive to do whatever someone recommends you avoid.

Bunyip mutters...

Posted May 12, 2013

Oh, PNB. That was just directed at the riff raff from Queensland. We will happily take your foreign currency down here. Tourism dollars yadda yadda...

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JP ducks in to say...

Posted May 11, 2013

Remember I said we should do a panel at this year's brissie writers fest about explodey-end-of-the-world stories? Fuck that - let's just sit at this place for an hour and smash these tarts. Like, every one they have. what's the worst that will happen - your eel will turn into the pacific rim? Ye gods...

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drej is gonna tell you...

Posted May 11, 2013

Only time I'll go anything custard is when its brandy-infused and accompanied by whipped cream on a christmas pud. Otherwise, meh.

But have always been a sucker for a good cream filled apple turnover. Yet to find a really good one in Qld.

tqft swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2013

I have been sampling the wares from Bumblebee Bakery in Runcorn where the aforesaid apple turnover with cream has been spotted, bought and consumed on a few occassions to repeat the taste tests for science.

Mmmm science.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted May 12, 2013

Our lives are so different, drej. Whereas you havent found a good cream filled apple turnover, I have never encountered a bad one anywhere, Queensland notwithstanding, and I suspect I never will.

drej mutters...

Posted May 12, 2013

tqft, Bumblebee you say. I shall check this out, thank you.

Paul, I am new to Qld, given time and a lot of research, I hold high hopes of finding the perfect turnover...

Brother PorkChop would have you know...

Posted May 13, 2013

You cannot go past a good snot block. Brisbane is a little short as far as I have found but Acland Street St Kilda is snot block heaven.

Lulu is gonna tell you...

Posted May 13, 2013

Brother Porkchop, Acland Street is heaven for all sorts of sweet reasons more exotic than a vanilla slice. Particularly cheese cake, and the pastries with poppy seed filling. Or that cake which combines cheesecake *and* a poppy seed layer ... please excuse me while I drool like Homer Simpson.

Brother PorkChop is gonna tell you...

Posted May 14, 2013

Quite true, Lulu but vanilla slice is a good start. I have have the most divine rum baba there as well.

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Murphy would have you know...

Posted May 11, 2013

I knew you meant food, but then I was with you in NYC with the Blueberry drenched Cheesecake of Doom at Carengie Deli.

Tarts are hard to come by in KC, pastry or otherwise. On the other hand, some very fine croissants and quiche can be had at Le Monde Bakery in North Kansas City (yes, from the Without Warning trilogy). I'm partial to the apple crossiant myself. Cindy prefers the quiche. Strangely enough, it is a French-Vietnamese establishment which also serves things with curry in it for lunch.

As for other fine dessert type foods, one probably should visit Aixois in Crestwood (a very small, very snotty, very old neighborhood near UMKC) for their Creme Brulee, which is definitely worth committing a homicide or three over.

Tarts, sadly, are hard to come by.

Or with, for that matter.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 12, 2013

Not strange at all. Before the US, the French were mucking about in Vietnam, and they adopted French cooking techniques as well as French food itself. I am willing to bet real money that John, while in Vietnam, could have found a great coq au vin. It doesn't surprise me that your local Vietnamese restaurant makes a good breakfast quiche. I don't eat quiche for fear of appearing gay. Not that there's anything wrong with it. It's just that if people believe you are gay they also expect you to be more stylish, and that just isn't me.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 12, 2013

Not only found one, I ate it all by myself.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted May 12, 2013

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

With apologies to W. H Auden. Kim Than's the Vietnam/French bakery in SthBrisbane has closed. No breakfast ever will be as good, now Those spicy pork buns in Le pastry will never be again.

With similar, but obverse heritage I bring to your attention Domaine de Canton. A spectacular cocktail ingrediant liquor that is brewed in France with Ginger appropriated from the Indochine. Slightly fkn AWSM.

Anthony has opinions thus...

Posted May 14, 2013

The French/Vietnamese connection... It is claimed that Ho Chi-Minh trained for a time in Paris as a pastry cook under Escoffier .

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2013

Could more attention be paid to making the crust and tart more symetrical in appearance? Is the radius of the tart consistent from week to week? There is a much more subline beauty in the mathematics of the shape then in any prepared sweet.

Paraphrasing Dr Carl Sagan ..if If you wish to make a Portuguese custard tart from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2013

If tart radius is subject to change, then I would suspect being cheated or, at the very least, my snack would be ruined by intrusive thoughts questioning my decision (e.g., "you didn't pick the biggest one, idiot; the ugly bloke with the bow tie picked it, and now is eating your tart; YOUR tart; you should walk over there and grab it; and then run..." and so on). I hate when that happens.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted May 12, 2013
Brother Bunyip you Will regret that. The USAnians are bandits for a little extraterritorial take away. To demonstrate, let’s just take the first ten years of the previous century.

1900 – China. The Boxer Rebellion was about Yum Cha, not about “protect foreign lives during the Boxer uprising” as the justification was put about later.

1901 –Panama. Keeping the canal open to permit speedy delivery of nomables from east to west & vice versa.

1902 – Colombia. – Aijiaco a chicken soup with avocado & cream

1902 – Colombia - Repeat of 1902 & tostadas.

1903 –Honduras A trader @ Puerto Cortes refused to give over the recipe for his marinade used in his special Pinchos Americanos, so the gringos invaded. Seemed reasonable at the time.

1903 – Dominican Republic. “To protect American interests in the city of Santo Domingo” = Access to Pasteles en hojas.

1903 – Syria. Known as the first Kebab war. Allegedly after a lot of beer it seemed like the best idea since sliced baklava

1903–04 – Ethiopia. Coffee

1904 – Dominican Republic. Again

1904 – Tangier, Morocco. Lamb.

1904 – Panama. See 1901

1904–05 – Korea. A Mistake. The DoD thought that it was Thailand and they wanted to safeguard supplies of curry puffs & cuttlefish balls.

1906–09 – Cuba. United Fruit Co.

See a pattern forming?

damian would have you know...

Posted May 12, 2013

Brecht innit? Grub first, then ethics.

Bunyip reckons...

Posted May 13, 2013

NBlob, they have already been here, and gone.

Within 20km of where I live is an American Hill, California Gully and Jim Crow Creek. And very few Americans. We are the Antipodian Borg; we assimilated them all.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted May 13, 2013

Damian - I don't know Brecht beyond sitting through the Caucasian Chalk Circle and imagining I was somewhere else. But I do know that Goethe called for "more light" so that he could better appreciate what he was eating.

Bunyip - you will never assimilate me, mate.

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Quokka puts forth...

Posted May 12, 2013

Nup. Paniyiri is on next weekend in Brisvegas, PNB. At which point the entire city will turn out in Musgrave Park to enact your philosophy and swill ouzo slurpees.

too bad you aren't here to partake of the madness.

Yassou!

damian mutters...

Posted May 12, 2013

I celebrated Paniyiri early by making a killer yogurt and garlic sauce to go with green salad and BBQ chicken thighs for Ildi, hamburger "steakettes" on turkish buns for me, Friday night.

Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted May 13, 2013

Mmmmm.... honey puffs.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 13, 2013

Auntie Q: I wish I were there to partake in the neo helenic madness. I am willing to bet real money that I could and would be intrumental in redefining the madness. Yassou bravo!

Damian or Aunti Q (or Greybeard, for that matter): Please life an ouzo slurpee high and say very loud "for Prof. Boylan!" before attempting to drink it all in one go. Do that for me. I don't care if you succeed. The attempt is enough.

damian mutters...

Posted May 15, 2013

So I here that Paniyiri is run by Channel Seven these days. Apparently there will be celebrity honey puff eating contests full of Channel Seven "celebrities". I'm afraid my intinctive reaction to this year's Paniyiri therefore is want to nuke the site from orbit - it's the only way to be sure.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 13, 2013

So sorry. "life" = "lift." It is Mother's Day here in seppoland, and I've been drinking mimosas with the mother of my only son, and, consequently, my cognative - if not mechanical - skills are compromised. And it feels great. Fuck typographical errors.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted May 13, 2013

Hell yeah, happy Mothers day to all the mothers out there.

NBlob reckons...

Posted May 14, 2013

?I may be a one trick pony, but its a great trick; buy 2 kilos of the best prawn I can find & 2 bunches of flowers, divide into two equal parts, deliver one to my mum and one to SWMBO. Walk away feeling insufferably smug.

w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted May 14, 2013

A fragrant gift.

Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 14, 2013

NBlob often carries a packet of prawns around, sometimes for several days at a time. There are those who say that it's an improvement.

damian mutters...

Posted May 14, 2013

On the actual morning, Woollies in Ipswich had bunches of chrysanthemums for $5 each (ie, half price), so I bought all they had left. We ended up splitting this 5 ways, because sometimes that's the right way for it to be.

Prawns, however, are a gift that keeps giving long after the event.

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