Famous for its food, its cocktails and its artwork, Cafe des Amis can lay claim to its status as a Canterbury institution after celebrating its 30th birthday.
Bill Betham and his French wife Emmanuelle opened the Mexican eatery in April 1988, inspired by a trip to Mexico the previous year.
They had both worked in restaurants before and found a premises they thought suitable – the old Westgate Tea Rooms on the prominent corner of St Dunstan’s Street and Westgate Grove.
The building had earlier been the Ben Lee antique shop.
Despite serving Mexican food, the restaurant was given a French name by Emmanuelle who wanted to create a French cafe feel and inject French influence into the cuisine.
The couple cooked the food themselves, but soon found themselves overwhelmed by demand. They took on staff and refit the kitchen.
In 1995, the Bethams expanded into the former Momtaz Indian restaurant next door.
Over the course of their years at Cafe des Amis, the Bethams have served more than a million meals – including to Prince Edward.
The Bethams continue to enjoy travelling around the world.
In 1999 they opened a restaurant in the town of Paia in Hawaii which serves crepes and Indian curries. It is also called Cafe des Amis.
Closer to home, the Bethams opened the Cafe du Soleil next to the River Stour. It has acquired a reputation for serving excellent French and Italian food.
The other strand in the Cafe des Amis story is the artwork on display in the restaurant.
It features papier-mâché works of art by Justin Mitchell and Emily Firmin, daughter of Peter Firmin who co-created tv programmes such as The Saga of Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, the Clangers, Bagpuss and Pogles’ Wood.
Clive Soord, another notable Canterbury-based artist, displays ceramic pieces in the restaurant.