Coming from a family of French bakers and canners, Elie Benard settled in Lisbon with his parents and siblings, in the mid-19th century, and on Rua do Loreto, he opened a Café – Bakery Franceza, inaugurated on 6 September 1868.
It was here that “the Lisbon public” found “excellent fine bread” and “all kinds of biscuits”, and even “hot buns in the Hamburg style”.
Over the years, in his Bakery Franceza on the Rua do Loreto, Elie Benard has produced and supplied biscuit bread, Garibaldi bread, Parisian bread, Four Nations bread, luxury tea bread, French bread, Parisian flute bread, bread Viennese, in addition to the Parisian brioches of “different cakes made by the French system”.
Lisbon was surely surrendered to the novelties and Chiado could be seen with certainty in the sophisticated names of those cosmopolitan and exquisitely tasted breads and sweets.
When Elie Benard died in 1897, his surname was synonymous with quality, refinement and prestige.
Gifted with an entrepreneurial spirit, Elie Benard had also founded, around 1870, in the street that later received the name of Garrett, an elegant shop where the people of Lisbon bought gloves, perfumes, crockery and toys – items mostly from Paris – he also took part, a few years later, in the creation of Fábrica a Vapor Progresso, an innovative mechanical bakery and Italian pasta factory to which he associated his Bakery Franceza on Rua do Loreto.
The important commercial activity of Elie Benard earned him the award of the Order of Christ, and he was also appointed supplier to the Portuguese and Italian royal houses.
Pedro and Casimiro Benard ensured the continuity of their father’s business and for five years the Bakery Franceza founded by Elie Benard remained on Rua do Loreto. It was during this period that the production of the famous croissants, then called “French bread, special for lunch” was announced for the first time. But in 1902 the two brothers ceded that establishment and separated the branches of activity from their deceased parent. Casimiro Benard took over the food business and moved to Rua Garrett, now under the name Patisserie Benard. This new store had the particularity of being located right next to the perfumery and gloves created by Elie, for which Pedro Benard was now responsible. The two brothers, established side-by-side, could thus benefit from the same sophisticated clientele. A little later, Diario Illustrado acknowledged: “It can be said that the Patisserie Benard is today the «rendez-vous» of our elegant society”.
Despite the climate of instability and uncertainty that resulted from the change of regime in Portugal and the imminent world conflict, in 1914, Patisserie Benard carried out remodeling works that came to “transform, beautify and modernize its establishment, providing the city with a store model of its kind”. It dates back to the façade that today, to a large extent, still stands.
“Without losing her modesty, without leaving her honest habits, she changed her appearance, changed her clothes, changed her manners” – that’s how the Portuguese Illustration described the change of the Lisbon woman in the beginning of the 20th century. And in fact, “the ladies, on their elegant visits to Chiado, wanted to be seen at Benard”, where an improved “tea, coffee, milk and chocolate service” invited them to hang out, chat and socialize.
Among the multiple delicacies that were manufactured at that time, the “broas in all qualities” were highlighted and it was recognized that “the delicious king cake is a real specialty”.
In the twenties, customers of Patisserie Benard found a “grand assortiment de gâteaux et biscuits, bonbons et dragées”, placing the establishment among the “premières maisons de Paris, Italie et Suisse”. The outdoor service (modern catering!) provided by Benard was gaining a growing reputation and for this reason it was advertised: “Lunchs pour mariage, déjeuners et dîners en ville sur commande”.
In the menus of these events –among the “chauds”, the “froids” and the “entremets”–, there were such original and refined confections as the “croquettes de poulard trufée”, the “jambon d’York á la gelée” or even the “filets de Boeuf glacé aux cressons”, followed by “petits fours à la Française”, “surprises à la Portugais and” and “fruits glacés à l’Italienne”–what cosmopolitanism! – all washed down with “vins, liqueurs et Champagne” of the best quality! French, as it turns out, continued to be the exquisite language par excellence, but the truth is that the name was gradually changed to Pastelaria Benard after the Lisbon City Council started to demand payment from stores that kept their identifying signs in a foreign language.
Interrupting a family cycle of long decades and several generations devoted to the activity of pastry and confectionery, Casimiro Benard decided, in 1932, to transfer Pastelaria Benard to a new owner, the firm Manuel José de Carvalho, Limitada. Important detail of the business: the continuity of its name was authorized. Three years later, the same company acquired the neighbor and now disappeared Pastelaria Marques, keeping the identities of each establishment distinct.
With a “smart and active” character, possessing “the natural gift of sympathy”, Manuel José de Carvalho, together with his partners, led Pastelaria Benard for almost four decades. Keeping as its primary activity the “pastry industry and trade”, it also assumed as its strength “the supply of snacks for weddings, banquets, etc.”, many of which are served at Casa do Leão, in São Jorge castle, both to entities officers as well as various personalities.
In both activities, Pastelaria Benard continued to be a reference for quality and elegance in Lisbon’s social daily life.
The death of Manuel José de Carvalho and Antonino Fernandes Dias – the partner who was his right-hand man –, together with the political turmoil and economic instability that followed the 25th of April 1974, led Pastelaria Benard to enter a period of difficulties, visible even in the degradation of space itself. At that time, the establishment did not have any production, with cakes and other products from the neighboring Marques coming from trays that covered, on Rua Garrett, the dozens of meters that separated the two stores.
In the early 1980s, the closure of Benard was believed to be imminent. Maria Augusta Montes, a long-established merchant in the vicinity of Chiado, however, was not satisfied with the idea of Lisbon losing its historic pastry shop, her favorite place. Against the opinion of his children and despite not knowing the field of activity, he decided to proceed with its purchase, which took place in 1983.
With the facilities renewed with a project that gave back to the space all the refinement and good taste of the past, recovered its own production and using only natural ingredients, Lisbon was able to continue to attend Benard.
Today, along with its regular customers for decades and those who rediscover the place once frequented by parents and grandparents, Benard also welcomes new visitors, Portuguese and foreigners, who travel daily through the frenetic and cosmopolitan atmosphere of Chiado of our time