Where to Find Delicious Latin American Food Nationwide

Want to taste at home, Brazilian journalist Juliana Cruz Lima goes in search of some Latin American flavors in the county.

From the colorful spices of Mexico to the flamboyant grills of Argentina, Latin America is home to some of the richest cuisines in the world.

KentOnline reporter Juliana Cruz Lima explored the best Latin flavors in Kent. Photo: Juliana Cruz Lima
Latin <a class=American cuisine is known for its rich variety of flavors and colors. Photo: Cafe des Amis” data-root=”/_media/img/” data-path=”CZV6032ZB4FJEQ6U5YQM.jpg” data-ar=”1.51″/>
Latin American cuisine is known for its rich variety of flavors and colors. Photo: Cafe des Amis

Many people tend to travel to London to experience Latin cuisine, but little do they know that Kent is full of hidden gems.

Since moving to the UK in 2017, one of the things I miss most about Brazil is definitely all the delicious food my family cooked every day.

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

For us Latinos, food goes far beyond cooking something to satisfy one’s hunger. In Brazil, and basically every other country in Latin America, we say that food is the way to someone’s heart.

Indeed, every meal is a chance to spend time with loved ones, celebrate life, and create memories while enjoying an incredible meal.

I wanted to get that happy feeling back, so I made it my personal mission to find where I could find a piece of home in the county.

For my luck (and yours too), I’ve spotted a few places in Kent that you should definitely visit for a full immersion in the beautiful Latin culture.

Sofia (in the center) organizes a typical Colombian fiesta every month.  Photo: Sofia Baguley
Sofia (in the center) organizes a typical Colombian fiesta every month. Photo: Sofia Baguley
You can taste traditional Colombian dishes.  Photo: Sofia Baguley
You can taste traditional Colombian dishes. Photo: Sofia Baguley

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

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

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

Sofia acquired her passion for cooking by watching her abuela (grandmother) and tías (aunts) in the kitchen, which is quite common in Latin homes.

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 cooking and sharing food has always been at the heart of every celebration and creates happy memories.

Sofia's ground beef empanadas are a huge hit.  Photo: Sofia Baguley
Sofia’s ground beef empanadas are a huge hit. Photo: Sofia Baguley

For £35 you can enjoy a three-course Colombian meal, which includes beef empanadas, sweetcorn and prawn fritters, roast chicken with signature sides like coconut rice and beans, and a delicious coconut cake with ice cream.

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

What matters to Sofia is having a good time with her family and friends, that’s what she misses the most in her beloved Colombia.

Like me, she misses the good old Latin way of partying, which means loud music and lots of dancing until at least 5 or 6 am. If the sun hasn’t risen yet, you shouldn’t stop partying.

She said: “I paid a fortune to throw my 40th birthday party at a fancy hotel nearby, but when it struck 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. It was really disappointing.”

She added: “Here, even if we go to London, we struggle to find places or clubs that play our music, which makes you jump out of the chair and dance. The music and the party atmosphere in general I miss.”

To learn more about Sofia’s cuisine, Click here.

Next step: Argentina with the Nights of Buenos Aires.

Owner Linda Pontoriero wants to bring the flavors of Argentina to Kent.  Photo: Linda Pontoriero
Owner Linda Pontoriero wants to bring the flavors of Argentina to Kent. Photo: Linda Pontoriero

With restaurants on High Street in Maidstone and North Street in Ashford, the Argentinian steakhouse is bringing porteño flavors (named after the people of Buenos Aires) to Kent.

Founded by Argentine Linda Pontoriero in 2008, Buenos Aires Nights prides itself on serving quality wines and steaks from its home country.

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

The elegant atmosphere, fully decorated with pieces showcasing the country’s icons like the Tango dance, also welcomes everyone and transports them to the Argentine capital. You should definitely give it a try.

Linda is happy to be able to introduce her culture to the people of Kent, as authentic Latin places are still hard to find 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 promote more Latin American businesses across the county, it could attract more Latin Americans to come to Kent and also attract locals to experience our culture.

“Sometimes when people come to our restaurant, they’re even surprised and say, ‘Oh wow, I’ve never met an Argentinian!'”

For more information on Buenos Aires Nights Click here.

Buenos Aires nights showcase the traditional tango dance through its decor.  Photo: Linda Pontoriero
Buenos Aires nights showcase the traditional tango dance through its decor. Photo: Linda Pontoriero

Fancy a little Mexican spice? No need to cross the ocean to taste Mexico from Canterbury.

Café des Amis, located on St Dunstans Street, this quirky and colorful restaurant will leave you craving for more of the country’s delicious food and drink.

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

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

You can taste their homemade signature dishes such as duck fajitas, Yucatán lamb stew, tacos, paella and much more.

Friends Cafe, St Dunstans Street, Canterbury.  Photo: Cafe des Amis
Friends Cafe, St Dunstans Street, Canterbury. Photo: Cafe des Amis

Unlike other places in the county and the UK, Café des Amis prides itself on making all the condiments – guacamole, salsa and sour cream – fresh daily, which for me is an absolute must when it comes to cooking mexican.

It’s much better to smell the mashed avocado chunks dancing with the tomatoes, cilantro and onion, than that gooey green thing you get at the grocery store (I refuse to call it guacamole, I’m sorry) .

John Russell has been the restaurant’s manager since 2008 and has described how the Mexican way of life translates into the food and atmosphere at Café des Amis.

“It’s such fun food to cook because of the colors and freshness of the ingredients used in Mexican cuisine,” he said.

“We just want our customers to feel like they’re on vacation for a few hours. We want them to feel like they’re in Mexico, enjoying food to share with friends and listening to really good music.

“Just bring them that feeling of freedom you get every time you go on vacation and enjoy your first night out.

“You never get tired of Latin American culture – the joy of life, the music and the food.

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

To know more Click here.

The tacos from Café des Amis are one of the must-have dishes.  Photo: Cafe des Amis
The tacos from Café des Amis are one of the must-have dishes. Photo: Cafe des Amis

After all these options, you may not know where to start, so why not try a bit of each country? In this case, Rico Sabor would be the way to go.

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

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

Some of the dishes available at Rico Sabor

Working in many Spanish kitchens, Chef Ramirez brings the traditional concept of tapas through Latin dishes.

The menu also offers a selection of paellas and main courses such as the Brazilian picanha steak and a very spicy chicken breast with a cream of yellow peppers from Peru.

Click here to learn more about Rico Sabor.

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