Love it or loathe it, the Eurovision Song Contest, is back this week. Whether you're cheering on the UK entry or just enjoying the cheese of the whole thing, we've put together a foodie guide to give you a taster, with the countries which automatically qualify - including the UK - and the ones in the semi-finals tomorrow and Thursday.
The George Inn, Leeds, Maidstone
If you're looking for something very English, what better than a pub named after the patron saint of England, a stone's throw from the "loveliest castle in the world", Leeds Castle. The Shepherd Neame gets glowing reviews on TripAdvisor, and is listed in the Good Pub Guide. It's popular for its cosy, village pub feel, and local cuisine, including Sunday roasts, plus fish and chips, along with vegetarian and vegan options.
Go to georgeinnleeds.co.uk
Frederic Cafe, Bistro, Maidstone
You don’t have to be French to eat here but chef/patron Ulric Allsebrook is! Hailing from the Dordogne region of France, where, as he says "good food and good wine marry themselves to good company" the eaterie tucked away in Market Buildings is always busy - you'll need to book ahead if you want to eat out there a Saturday night. Drop in for breakfast of scrambled egg and smoked salmon or just coffee and a croissant (homemade of course). Savour a croque monsieur or beef bourguignon for lunch. Pan fried sea bass and fresh crab feature on the dinner menu. There's also a hefty selection of gins and cheeses.
Go to fredericbistro.com
Mr Pretzels, Bluewater
German cuisine isn't just bratwurst and steins - though they'd make a good way to celebrate the German entry! Pretzels originated in Europe before the birth of Christ, but fresh ones are still just as tasty today. Mr. Pretzels is a pioneering brand of soft pretzels baked in a broad variety of flavours from pretzel dough prepared on the spot and hand rolled before your eyes.
Don Vincenzo, Rochester
If you're looking for authentic Italian cuisine, this Rochester High Street restaurant, established in 1998, is one of the best. It has traditional Italian cuisine and a welcoming atmosphere. Ingredients are sourced from around Britain and Italy and the dishes are from regions across Italy.
Azouma Restaurant, Canterbury
Specialising in Moroccan and Lebanese cuisine, the Arabian delight in Church Street, Canterbury also has a wealth of dishes popular in Israel to try, such as falafel, hummus and couscous, plus belly dancing on Friday evenings.
Go to azouma.co.uk
The Wife of Bath, Wye, near Ashford
The restaurant and tapas bar was acquired and refurbished in 2016 by Mark Sargeant, owner and operator of Rocksalt in Folkestone and The Duke William Pub in Ickham. The restaurant serves Northern Spanish inspired dishes and tapas all day in the bar too. You can complement the dishes with Mahou Lager from Madrid, gins from all over Spain, and Spanish wine with wine from well-known Spanish wine regions such as Rioja. You can top it all with a Spanish coffee or brandy.
More at thewifeofbath.com/
Countries in both semi finals on Tuesday and Thursday this week:
Ela Kendro, Watling Street, Gillingham
One of the best known and popular items of Greek Cypriot cuisine today is halloumi. Made from goat's milk, fried halloumi, along with dishes such as shaftalia (grilled sausage) and pitta bread, are traditional favourites. You'll find halloumi on the menu along with meat dishes, kebabs and seafood.
Go to elakendro.co.uk/new-menu
The Weald Smokery, Flimwell
Montenegro has Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north west, Serbia and Kosovo to the east, Albania to the south and Croatia to the west, so what is the cuisine that Montenegro entry D Mol - who will be singing Heaven in their semi final - and their fellow countrymen and women eat? Besides seafood on the coast, fish soup and squid ink coloured black risotto,the Old Montenegro cuisine includes King Nikola’s pancakes, made from corn flour and filled with walnuts and local honey, and dishes that are dominated by the taste of smoked ham (pršut). Check out the Weald Smokery for your smoked ham to toast the country's entry.
Go to wealdsmokery.co.uk
The White Eagle, Northfleet, Gravesend
The kitchen and bar at The Hill, Northfleet, specialises in homemade Polish cuisine, prepared using traditional old Polish recipes. It also stocks plenty of Polish drinks, vodkas, and beers and caters for 50 diners.
As Slovenia is near the Adriatic sea, there's a lot of seafood in the Slovenian diet, including cod, eel, cuttle fish and calamari. You can find calamari on a range of menus across Kent, but why not try Vesuvius, which specialises in southern Italian traditional cuisine, which has Calamari alla Calamari Romana on its antipasts menu, served with lemon and chilli mayo.
Find out more at vesuvius-restaurant.co.uk/our-menus/
One of Estonia's national dishes is räim (Baltic dwarf herring), along with sprats. Flounder, perch and pike-perch are also popular. There are lots of places to eat fresh fish in Kent, and one of the best is Rocksalt, which is set on the Folkestone Harbour, a stone's throw from where the fishing boats come in and run by Mark Sargeant.
The cafe specialises in Portuguese cuisine, including coffee and cakes.
Remember the refreshing glass of Ouzo you washed down your dinner with on holiday? If you are looking to bring back memories, head to Artemis, a family-run restaurant in Week Street. It has all the classic dishes – from an authentic Greek salad, to moussaka, seafood meze, and spanakopita (spinach pie) - plus there are party nights with traditional music, dancing and some plate smashing!
The Cloudberry Restaurant, Stone Street, Cranbrook
Finns love their food - from cabbage rolls to pea soup and Leipäjuusto, a type of cheese. The cheese - which tastes like a firm cottage cheese - is served slightly warm and is topped with cloudberry jam. Ideally, the cloudberry jam would be homemade but you can buy it. We couldn't find any cloudberries on menus in Kent, but the Cloudberry Restaurant in Cranbrook has some tasty choices, from wood pigeon, black pudding, beetroot & walnut salad to duck breast, pea risotto & spiced duck sauce.
Details at thecloudberryrestaurant.com
The fish and chip restaurant on Tonbridge High Street serves Icelandic fish with its great British chips. You can't miss the chip shop, which is in a prominent spot on the main road through the town.
Get Forked, Gravesend Borough Market
Hungarians love a good goulash - one of the most famous dishes from the Hungarian culinary repertoire. The name derives from the gulyás (herdsmen), who made their rich and fulfilling dish in a kettle over an open-fire. Today, a kettle made goulash is considered as the most authentic version. A basic goulash is somewhere between a soup and stew, with beef (occasionally veal or pork), carrot, potato, spices and the typical paprika. You can get an authentically made one from Get Forked in Northfleet, Gravesend.
Check out facebook.com/pg/Get-Forked
Folk from the Czech Republic have a very specific cocktail, Becherovka. It is served with tonic water and means "concrete" in Czech and other languages.
Belarusian culinary traditions represent a mix of simple recipes used by commoners and a sophisticated cuisine of the nobility. Traditional dishes are served at farmsteads that use local farm produce to make the dishes which are often common only for a particular area. Today’s diet for Belarusians includes pork stew (machanka) and vereshchaka, homemade sausages, kletski (dumplings) and mushroom soup.
The best known Serbian drink is Rakija a strong brandy, most commonly made from plum, apricot, quince, or pear. It can even be made from pear. You'd need to pop over to Serbia to get some, but we're sure the Serbian entry won't mind you toasting them with a non-Serbian brandy.
Godiva Chocolates, Bluewater
Think Belgium - think chocolate, and you can get your Belgian chocolates to snack on while watching the show at Bluewater shopping centre in Greenhithe, on the Upper Guildhall.
Georgia's distinctive orange wine, once known to only the savviest sommeliers, is now cropping up on wine lists across the country (some are even dubbing it the new rosé). Toast the Georgian entry with a glass, by heading to, not the country itself, but your nearest Waitrose or Aldi, who have been stocking it.
We're just going to leave this here... Vegemite. It's the Australian version of Marmite, made from yeast extract, vegetables and spices. To be truly Australian, however, you'll need to have it with avocado on your toast.
If you want to get the taste, you could head to the Living Cafe in Earl Street, Maidstone, where variations of smashed avocado on toast are best sellers.
The Danes make a mean pastry, which might sweeten your evening after much of the spiced and sour tasting foods of our European neighbours. The Plaxtol Bakery makes Danish pastries among its artisan goodies, which are available for delivery or in the bakery's two shops in Borough Green and Tonbridge.
Go to artisanbakerskent.co.uk/
CCCP Restaurant, Ramsgate
It's something of a rarity to find Russian cuisine in Kent but CCCP Restaurant in Ramsgate has been serving it for six years. You can choose from traditional dishes such as Chicken Kiev or borscht, or opt for pancakes with caviar or something from the wild dishes section of the menu - venison or wild boar.
Wash it down with beer brewed in St Petersburg or try one of the range of Russian vodkas available.
Adorned with Russian decorative items and Soviet-era style, it's a night out from Russia with love.
The Republic of San Marino is surrounded by Italy on all sides. Nearly every Italian town has its own recipe for a traditional pasta sauce, while San Marino shares its with Bolognese, which is also nearby.
Armenian cuisine includes the foods and cooking techniques of the Armenian people, reflecting the history and geography where Armenians have lived. Lamb, eggplant, and bread (lavash) are basic features of Armenian cuisine.
The Fox and Goose, Weavering, Maidstone
To raise a glass to the Irish entry, you'll need to reach for the Guinness. Most Kent pubs will serve it, including the Fox and Goose in Weavering Street, where Guinness joins stout and cask ales alongside lagers and wines to try.
Perhaps the best known Moldovan dish is a well-known Romanian dish, mămăligă, which is a cornmeal porridge or polenta-like food served with stews and meat dishes or garnished with cottage cheese, sour cream, or pork rind.
Zizzi restaurant, Maidstone, Whitstable, Sevenoaks, Canterbury
Once a 70s dinner party dish, fondue, made with Swiss cheese, is back in fashion now, though in a less communal fashion.
Go to zizzi.co.uk/food
Fish is commonly consumed due to Latvia's location on the east coast of the Baltic Sea, while the cuisine includes seasonal local ingredients, including wheat, barley, cabbage, onions, eggs and pork. Latvian cuisine is markedly seasonal due to pronounced four seasons in the climate.
Romanian cuisine is a diverse blend of different dishes from several traditions with which it has come into contact, but it also maintains its own character. The ciorbă includes a wide range of soups with a characteristic sour taste, made of anything from meat and vegetables to tripe, soured by lemon juice.
Think Sweden think Ikea - which means, apart from flat pack furniture means heading for the cafe and ordering meatballs. The nearest Ikea to Kent, however, will mean heading over to Thurrock, or Croydon.
One of Austria's national dishes, Wiener Schnitzel, is made from a thin cutlet of veal that's breaded and then pan-fried in butter or oil.
One of the most popular dishes in Croatia is black risotto. Known locally as crni rižot, it is made with cuttlefish or squid, olive oil, garlic, red wine and squid ink, which gives an intense seafood flavour and black colour.
Maltese cuisine reflects Maltese history, though hasItalian and English influences as well as Spanish, French and other Mediterranean cuisines. The traditional Maltese stewed rabbit (fenek) is often said to be the national dish.
Lithuanian dishes use a lot of root vegetables such as potatoes and beetroot, as well as meat and dairy, to be filling for a colder climate. Lithuania’s national dish, cepelinai, are large dumplings made of a mixture of raw and cooked potato dough filled with pork and doused in a ladle of a sour cream and bacon sauce. Originally called didzkukuliai, the name was changed to cepelinai because they were shaped like zeppelin airships.
Heavy stews, pickled cabbage, feta cheese, and smoked meats, plus plenty of salads are all part of the Albanian cuisine.
The Norwegians, like the Danes, are mainly beer drinkers. The stronger Norwegian beer is called Export while there are two other types of beer - Brigg and Zero. The other national drink is akevitt, also known as schnapps.
Stacked Dutch Pancakes, Bluewater
The mid-mall kiosk at the shopping centre sells Dutch Pancakes, or Poffertjes as they are known in the Netherlands. A modern twist on a classic snack, there are mini pancakes, piled high and can be served with lots of sweet toppings.
The country has become known as North Macedonia due to a dispute over its name with Greece, which also lays claim to the title of Macedonia for one of its northern regions. All this has been resolved now with the addition of 'North' to the name. The traditional cuisine of North Macedonia reflects Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences and shares characteristics of other Balkan cuisines. Local alcoholic beverages include rakija.
* The Eurovision Song Contest has two semi-finals this week, on Tuesday, May 14 and Thursday, May 16, before the final - featuring the UK's entry, 21-year-old Michael Rice with Bigger Than Us - on Saturday, May 18, which is being held in Tel Aviv. It is the contest's 64th year.