Published: 05:00, 03 March 2022
Canterbury has no shortage of restaurants tailor-made for those wanting a quick bite to eat.
But if and when Taco Bell opens a drive-thru off Sturry Road, punters could have their heads turned towards the edge of the city in their search for a snack. They should resist the temptation, though, as a Latin-themed gem resides within the city walls.
Found in the centre of the Dane John Gardens, Don Juan has been lavished with praise from diners for its Spanish and South American staples. Of its 74 Tripadvisor reviews, 64 gave it full marks, while the remainder gave it four stars out of five.
As I stepped up to the wood-panelled hut, I was met by a bespectacled member of staff. “Do you like beef? We have fresh empanadas,” he said.
Wanting something small, I ordered an empanada and a serving of patatas bravas.
“What drinks do you have?” I asked. After he rattled off an array of hot and soft drink names – most of which I struggled to hear – I ordered a bottle of water.
While I waited, I looked out into the park, where a dog made itself hoarse barking at a police car rolling through the beauty spot - which is a much different place at night.
I was sat inside a walled canopy, which was decorated with caricatures of the likes of Diego Maradona, Pope Francis and Jorge Luis Borges.
Fragments of conversation from the stream of passers-by floated in, as Hispanic music rang out from a speaker inside the kitchen.
“Senor!” My food was ready. “Be careful with this – it’s mighty hot,” the employee added, pointing at my empanada.
In one container lay a mound of potato chunks, obscured by a pool of thick red sauce and a sprinkling of parsley. While the sauce lacked spice, it was rich with flavour and the golden cubes were light and fluffy.
My bites were punctuated by the sound of the café worker singing along to the music playing in the kitchen. With each line, he seemed to grow in confidence, his voice getting louder.
After polishing off the potatoes, I moved onto the empanada. The crisp parcel of pastry made way for piping hot chunks of meat, onion and potato.
“Did you enjoy it?” the staff member enquired, peering out from behind the till. I had. I left having had a filling, flavourful meal, and was already working out what I’d order for my next visit when I returned to my desk.
Don Juan is among a long list of city independents, including Mr Falafel in St George’s Street, that offer affordable lunchtime treats. Trips to places like this are many times more satisfying than a visit to a fast-food chain.
Ratings out of five
Food: Prepared quickly, the food was absolutely delicious. The menu had a number of other appetising options, like its rib-eye steak sandwich and choripan, which make it well worth another visit. Those with a sweet tooth will also be enticed by the option of churros. ****
Drink: Customers have the chance to choose from a handful of fizzy drinks, tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages. ***
Decor: The sheltered seating area was quirkily decorated. Dane John Gardens is also a beautiful place during the day. ****
Staff: The member of staff was warm, welcoming and helpful. *****
Price: At just under £10 for the food, it's not bad value. However, the empanada could have been bigger. ***