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Where to find delicious Latin American food across the county


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Longing for a taste of home, Brazilian reporter Juliana Cruz Lima goes in search of some Latin American flavours in the county.

From the colourful spices of Mexico, to the hot flaming grills of Argentina, Latin America is home to some of the world's richest cuisines.

KentOnline reporter Juliana Cruz Lima explored the best Latino flavours in Kent. Picture: Juliana Cruz Lima
KentOnline reporter Juliana Cruz Lima explored the best Latino flavours in Kent. Picture: Juliana Cruz Lima
Latin American cuisine is known for its rich variety of flavours and colours. Picture: Café des Amis
Latin American cuisine is known for its rich variety of flavours and colours. Picture: Café des Amis

Many people tend to go to London to discover Latin food, but little do they know that Kent has a fair share of hidden gems.

Since I moved to the UK in 2017, one of the things I miss the most from Brazil has definitely been all the delicious dishes my family would make every day.

My entire childhood was marked by traditional meals, from the classic rice, beans and steak for lunch, to the iconic brigadeiro dessert, which is a divine condensed milk and chocolate truffle. Believe me, it's better than any Cadbury or Quality Street chocolate!

For us Latinos, food goes way beyond preparing something to satisfy one's hunger. Back in Brazil, and basically in every other Latin American country, we say that food is the way to someone's heart.

This is because every meal is a chance to enjoy time with your loved ones, celebrate life, and make memories while enjoying an amazing meal.

I wanted to have this joyful feeling back, therefore I made it my personal mission to find out where I could find a piece of home around the county.

To my luck (and yours too), I spotted a few places in Kent that you should definitely check out for a full immersion to the beautiful Latin culture.

Sofia (centre) throws a typical Colombian fiesta every month. Picture: Sofia Baguley
Sofia (centre) throws a typical Colombian fiesta every month. Picture: Sofia Baguley
Guests can enjoy traditional Colombian dishes. Picture: Sofia Baguley
Guests can enjoy traditional Colombian dishes. Picture: Sofia Baguley

Let's start by taking a trip straight to Colombia with Sofia's Colombian Kitchen, in Pennine Walk, Tunbridge Wells.

Born in the coastal town of Cartagena, Colombia, Sofia Baguley came to England in 1995 after marrying her English husband who she met in Caracas, Venezuela.

The mother-of-two now lives in Tunbridge Wells and hosts typical Colombian dinner parties at her house on the first Saturday of every month.

Sofia got her passion for cooking by watching her abuela (grandma) and her tías (aunties) in the kitchen, which is quite common in Latino households.

After moving to Tunbridge Wells seven years ago, the 49-year-old wanted to show her Colombian recipes to the people of Kent.

She said that cooking and sharing food has always been the heart of every celebration and makes happy memories.

Sofia's beef mince empanadas are a huge success. Picture: Sofia Baguley
Sofia's beef mince empanadas are a huge success. Picture: Sofia Baguley

For £35, you can enjoy a three-course Colombian meal, which features beef empanadas, sweet corn and prawn fritters, roasted chicken with typical sides like coconut rice and beans, and a delicious coconut cake with ice cream.

After eating, guests can dance to typical Colombian music or choose their own playlist.

What matters to Sofia is to have a good time with your family and friends, which is what she misses the most about her beloved Colombia.

Like me, she misses the good old Latino way of partying, which means loud music and plenty of dance until 5 or 6am at least. If the sun has not risen yet, you should not stop partying.

She said: "I paid a fortune to have my 40th birthday party at a posh hotel nearby, but when it stroke midnight, we had to turn the music down, and just like Cinderella, the party was over. Even though we hired all the rooms above our party for our guests. That was really disappointing."

She added: "Over here, even if we go to London, we struggle to find places or clubs that play our music, which makes you jump off the chair and dance. I just miss the music and the partying atmosphere overall."

To find out more about Sofia's Kitchen, click here.

Next stop: Argentina with Buenos Aires Nights.

Owner Linda Pontoriero wants to bring the flavours of Argentina to Kent. Picture: Linda Pontoriero
Owner Linda Pontoriero wants to bring the flavours of Argentina to Kent. Picture: Linda Pontoriero

With restaurants in Maidstone's High Street and Ashford's North Street, the Argentinian steakhouse brings the porteño (name for Buenos Aires locals) flavours to Kent.

Founded by Argentine Linda Pontoriero in 2008, Buenos Aires Nights are proud to serve quality wines and steaks all the way from her home country.

Her traditional steaks and dishes are also influenced by Spanish and Italian cooking techniques. Following the Argentinian typical grilling method, the steaks are cooked in low fire and slowly, in order to become tender and without that burnt taste.

The elegant atmosphere, fully decorated with pieces showcasing the country's icons such as the Tango dance, also welcomes everyone and transports them to the Argentinian capital. You should most certainly give it a try.

Linda is glad that she can showcase her culture to people in Kent, as authentic Latino places are still hard to find over here.

She said: "I don’t think the Latin American culture is very strong in Kent, compared to other areas like London, for example.

"I think if we can manage to promote more the Latino businesses across the county, that could attract more Latin American people to come to Kent and also attract the locals to get to know our culture.

"Sometimes when people come to our restaurant, they actually get surprised and say ‘oh wow, I’ve never met an Argentinian!’."

For more information about Buenos Aires Nights click here.

Buenos Aires nights showcases the traditional tango dance through its decoration. Picture: Linda Pontoriero
Buenos Aires nights showcases the traditional tango dance through its decoration. Picture: Linda Pontoriero

Fancy a bit of Mexican spice? No need to go all the way across the ocean when you can taste Mexico from Canterbury.

Café des Amis, located in St Dunstans Street, this quirky and colourful diner will leave you wanting more of the country's delicious dishes and drinks.

The restaurant was founded by Bill and Emmanuelle Betham in 1988 after a trip to Mexico the year before. They wanted to bring the Mexican people's vibrant cuisine and love of fiesta all the way to the UK.

Café des Amis became a go-to destination for students, locals, and even royalty as Prince Edward has made a few visits.

Guests can enjoy their home-made signature dishes such as duck fajitas, Yucatán lamb stew, tacos, paella and much more.

Café des Amis, in St Dunstans Street, Canterbury. Picture: Café des Amis
Café des Amis, in St Dunstans Street, Canterbury. Picture: Café des Amis

Unlike other places in the county and the UK, Café des Amis pride themselves in prepping all condiments - guacamole, salsa, and sour cream - freshly every day, which for me is an absolute must when it comes to Mexican cuisine.

It is way better to feel the smashed bits of avocado dancing around with the tomatoes, cilantro and onion, than that gooey green thing you get at the grocery store (I refuse to call that guacamole, I'm sorry).

John Russell has been the restaurant's manager since 2008, and described how the Mexican livelihood is translated in the food and atmosphere at Café des Amis.

"It’s such a fun cuisine to cook with because of the colours and the freshness of the ingredients used in the Mexican kitchen," he said.

"We just want our customers to feel like they're on holiday for a few hours. We want them to feel like in Mexico, enjoying the food to share with friends and listening to really great music.

"Just bring them that sense of freedom you get whenever you go on holiday and enjoy your first night out in a restaurant.

"You can never get enough of Latin American culture – the joy of life, of music and food.

"It’s something you can’t get enough of, especially in times like these, which can be a bit worrying and difficult."

To find out more click here.

The tacos at Café des Amis are one of the go-to dishes. Picture: Café des Amis
The tacos at Café des Amis are one of the go-to dishes. Picture: Café des Amis

After all these options, you might be unsure of where to begin, so why not try a bit of every country? In that case, Rico Sabor would be the way to go.

With restaurants in Rochester, Gravesend, and Dover, Rico Sabor transports guests to destinations like Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

Rico Sabor was founded by Julian Ramirez, a Mediterranean chef who showcases his South and Latin American roots through his cuisine.

Some of the dishes available at Rico Sabor

By working in many Spanish kitchens, chef Ramirez brings the traditional concept of tapas through Latino dishes.

The menu also feature a selection of paellas and main dishes such as Brazilian picanha steak and a very spicy chicken breast with a Peruvian yellow chillies cream.

Click here to discover more about Rico Sabor.

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