Since 1922 the Pastelaria Versailles has been the go-to café for many families reaped the benefits of the then new Avenidas Novas development plan that expanded not only the urban space but also the social and cultural life of the city of Lisbon. It was the first large café in this area, becoming so important that a considerable part of the patrons at the weekend are former residents who come back for nostalgic reasons, and to show it to their families. The Avenidas Novas district has changed a lot. In the 1980s and 90s, residential occupation declined sharply, affecting the life of Versailles to the extent that the café went bankrupt. It was then purchased by a company, and today belongs to nine business partners.
Whilst it is a special place, given the life in the café at any time of day, lunchtime is when the bustle is worth experiencing. Eight servers behind the bar and another six waiting on tables move in a high-speed choreography that is so well oiled that they never collide, and are never late. They hurry to meet the many orders and requests of their customers, who go for their lunchbreaks there from the many surrounding offices and companies. Later in the afternoon, and at dinner time, the pace is a different one. But it is still almost always full, which speaks to the house’s quality: a tenderloin steak for lunch, the house specialty chocolate cake in the late afternoon, coffee, or the wide range of pastries and cakes.
If Versailles were in another part of town – Baixa or Chiado, perhaps – it would likely be flooded with tourists simply because of the way it is. Not that foreigners aren’t welcome, and indeed some do come, but without ever unfavourably tipping the balance in terms of diversity that makes the venue really interesting: the regular guest, the person who drops in now and again, another who has come from the other side of the world and will never be back again. The best about Versailles is that it is by no means a café from times gone by – although it has a lot of that – it is a café that is very much of the here and now. It has not succumbed to nostalgia and reminiscences – although it has every reason for them. We find them in the sinuous Art Nouveau-inspired lines of the furnishings; the paintings by Benvindo Ceia and the carved woodwork by Fausto Fernandes, work that covers walls and ceilings and from which chandeliers are hung; the ample mirrors and the marble surfaces; and the scale conferred by the very high ceilings. One could call it a classic, old school café, but one that is fully in sync with modern trends – and has some timelessly good croquettes.
Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, coffee and beverages