Day in the Life: Emma Airley, co-owner of Glasgow's Pasteis Lisboa

She tells tells us about running Scotland's first pastelaria

Published 16th Jan 2024
Updated 16 th Jan 2024


I’m not naturally a morning person, but I’ve had no choice but to get up early since we opened Pastéis Lisboa. That hasn’t been too hard over the summer, but this may change come the dark mornings. While our bakery team, including my partner and co-owner, Sebastian, are firing up the ovens for the day, I’m coming to with a first check of emails, so I can respond to anything urgent and log any pre-orders for the day which might have come in overnight.


Before heading out the door, there’s the laundry to do. At the moment we wash all of the bakery linens, so there’s a never-ending pile to get through daily.

Breakfast is usually some fruit and yoghurt, which is gulped down as I head out the door. If Sebastian’s on an opening shift, I’ll take the train. I enjoy this pause between home and work, and I use the time to reply to and repost social media content from our customers, and plan any posts or stories for that day. Like so many other small businesses, social media is critical for helping us engage with customers and telling the story of our business, products and suppliers.

I’ll also sneak in a quick catch up of the news – working 12-14 hour days over the last few months has been intense, so it’s important to stay engaged with the outside world too.


If they haven’t eaten yet, I’ll do a breakfast run for the bakery team then we run through any large order enquiries - we receive lots of requests for catering and wholesale, which is great. We’ll all munch at least one pastel de nata every morning too – for quality control purposes! Once we open the doors, we’ll have a bit of a team meeting to review any orders, rotas, to-do and shopping lists, along with any issues which need resolved. We’ve been hugely lucky in assembling the team we have. It’s hard, tiring work, but we’re all immensely proud of the product and the service we give our customers, and we have a lot of fun doing it.

The next couple of hours are for admin work, including speaking to our business adviser at Transmit Startups and contacts at the British Business Bank, who helped us with the funding we needed to get started.


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I help cover lunch breaks in the early afternoon, which will involve me mostly working out front with our customers. I love getting to know our regulars, meeting new faces and seeing their reaction to the shop and our products. I might also have to cover the work of the kitchen porter or other bakery staff. My family has been in hospitality since the Fifties, and we’ve all started out washing dishes.


The rest of the afternoon is typically spent at our nearby office, with a lunch of more fruit or some salad that’s eaten at my desk. I tend to eat lightly throughout the day. Sebastian and I also run Ciora Scotland, our ecommerce business which specialises in traditionally tanned sheepskins, handmade slippers and home accessories.

I’ll catch up on paperwork and marketing activities relating to both businesses – ordering stock, seeking out new products for the Iberian deli section at Pasteis Lisboa, photography and editing, writing posts, prepping marketing emails and website work. We also have exciting plans for the future development of the business, and afternoons are my ‘quiet’ time to focus on this.


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I’m back at the bakery to help with the end of day clean up and run through any issues or plans for the coming days. By this time Sebastian will be dropping on his feet, so it’s time to get him (and the laundry) back home.


As a business owner you can never 100 per cent switch off, so much of the evening chat between Sebastian and I tends to be work related. We’re our own worst (or best?) critics and we’re constantly thinking about how to do things better or more efficiently, and brainstorming our business development plans.

We always make sure to sit down to dinner at the table together every night. We both love cooking, but luckily we have the best bread in Glasgow on hand and a gorgeous deli range to raid now. Lately, dinner has tended to be a spread of deliciousness from the bakery – some charcuterie from Spain, fish or seafood conservas from Portugal, olives or roast peppers.


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After dinner I’ll catch up with friends and family by phone or WhatsApp, have a bath, and either read a book (I’ll manage five pages, if I’m lucky) or do a little knitting (five rows if I’m lucky) to wind my brain down. Not before the laundry’s been hung up to dry though.



Pastéis Lisboa specialises in the Portguese custard tart that is pasteis de nata (as well as a vegan version). It’s open Monday to Sunday, from 8am until 6.30pm, at 280 Byres Rd, Glasgow. As well as freshly squeezed orange juice and craft soda, they serve coffee by local business Dear Green Roasters and Bare Bones’ single origin hot chocolate. For more information, see or follow them on Instagram at @pasteislisboa

Pic Peter Devlin

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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