The hidden Canterbury Mexican restaurant adored by Orlando Bloom


Canterbury is well known for its amazing nightlife, wide range of pubs and bars, and of course its wide selection of amazing restaurants. While there is so much to offer on a visit to this historic town, it was the Café des Amis that won the heart of one of Kent’s biggest stars.

Orlando Bloom is well known for his legendary screen career, having starred in iconic franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings. Surely many know that prior to his celebrity life, the swashbuckling actor actually grew up in our own county.

Although he now lives a lavish and luxurious life in the United States with his pop star partner Katy Perry and their two children, the 45-year-old actually grew up in Canterbury. During his youth, he attended several county schools including St Peter’s Methodist Primary School, King’s School and St Edmund’s School.

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In fact, eagle-eyed visitors to the city will be able to find the face and name of the star on an iconic Canterbury monument. Bloom got his big acting break at the age of 22, playing the role of Legolas in The Lord of the Rings franchise.

The actor told Canadian Living, “I’m going home. I still have family there. But I don’t go back as often as I would like.

“When I’m in Canterbury, I try to go to Café des Amis, a Mexican restaurant. I guess I was sixteen when we started going. It had just opened. “

Orlando Bloom in Lord of the Rings

Specializing in Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine, the restaurant sits just beside the Great Stour River on St Dunstans Street and has established itself as one of the city’s greats. Having opened its doors in 1988, owners Bill and Emmanuelle Betham settled in a magnificent 16th century building for their establishment.

It was their travels through Mexico that inspired the couple to start a restaurant, with a desire to introduce the local community to some of the broader Mexican flavors. Their menu was carefully crafted by Bill, who was already a chef and had previously worked in Paris, Sydney and Durban.

Emmanuelle, who is French, came up with the name, wanting to add an element of French café culture to the restaurant. Then in 1995, the Bethams expanded by taking over the adjacent 15th century building.

Friends Cafe in Canterbury
Friends Cafe in Canterbury

On their website, the restaurant says this about their food: “Modern Mexican cuisine draws its influence not only from its ancient Aztec past, but also from the Spanish and French colonial eras. More recently, California and the other border states have added new layers of influence to this highly evolved cuisine.

“We are committed to using the highest quality fresh ingredients. We use a traditional local butcher, Hedgers of St Dunstans (close enough to make deliveries on foot), and we use Dumbrells of Canterbury for all our fruit and vegetables.

On the main menu, spicy pulled pork enchiladas, paella, seafood burrito, Chimayo rib eye steak and more. You’d think a Hollywood star favorite would also cost an arm and a leg, but most main courses are available between £10 and £15, with menus offering two courses for £16.95 or three for £20, £95.

Bloom also said of the restaurant: “The food is outstanding. The best Mexican food you’ll ever eat. Honestly. I’ve traveled all over Mexico and always find Café des Amis to match pretty well with anything I’m looking for. I had in Mexico.

“It’s in an old building overlooking the river and the Westgate towers, which are the gates to the city. It used to be a shop selling bric-a-brac, brassware and other things.”

This praise also did not go unnoticed by the owners, who expressed their joy at having such a famous patron. Café Des Amis general manager John Russell told the Canterbury Hub: “Orlando Bloom’s comments were received with great appreciation.

The tasty Mexican cuisine offered at the Café des Amis
The tasty Mexican cuisine offered at the Café des Amis

“It was definitely beneficial to have such a prominent personality review us positively. I think it had a positive impact on maybe attracting more customers.”

However, that praise doesn’t just come from Mr. Bloom, as the restaurant currently holds a 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor from over 1,800 reviews. One reviewer said: “We enjoyed a very good meal here.

“The staff were welcoming and the service excellent despite the busy conditions. The food was very well presented and tasty. All in all a very good place to eat but book.

Another added: “An excellent restaurant, this was my second visit and has excellent food, good value and service. My dad said it was one of the best meals he’s ever had.

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