Dillingers in Hayes, Bromley has been around for years. My parents used to hang out here, and it was labelled the hot spot for cool kids back in the 70’s – everyone knew it, its reputation was a tough one for any American Diner to beat.
I remember coming here when I was young, and I remember thinking it was the most relaxed place in the world with the best ribs I had ever eaten! Anyone who lived near this restaurant really was the luckiest kid alive.
Years later, we ended up moving within walking distance of Dillingers, and my kids were really excited to have this as our local family-friendly diner. The first week we had moved in (nearly 3 years ago) we excitedly hustled up there on a Friday early evening, and the place was fully booked, absolutely heaving and we had no chance of getting a table. Consequently, we tried to book for the following day, no luck, fully booked. As were the Friday and Saturday the next week. We were looking at having to book two weeks in advance. This place really is popular, it must still be amazing! Two weeks pass, and we anxiously awaited for our banquet to arrive, and it was well worth the wait. The food was excellent, the service was friendly, and we all left with colossal food baby’s to rival any pregnant lady ready to pop.
Due to working on our new house we didn’t actually return for another few months, but in that time something changed. We rang to book a table on Wednesday and were surprised to find we could book for that same Saturday at 7.30pm. When we arrived, it was busy, but it positively wasn’t buzzing like it was previously. The staff spent more time chatting to each other than serving our drinks that sat on the bar in full view for at least 10 minutes, and the BBQ sauce my son asked for took an age to come to the point where his chips were stone cold when it arrived. Despite the shoddy service, the food was good. Not as good as before, but it was nice, and as always, the portions were huge.
We didn’t rush back to the restaurant despite living around the corner, but when my family came over from Australia, we decided to give it another go because they fancied going somewhere local and BBQ ribs were the food of choice. And let’s face it, there isn’t really anywhere else you can go if you want that.
Again, we had no trouble booking a table for the following day, 8pm on a Friday and to be honest we knew it wasn’t going to be great, but we didn’t realise just how bad it was going to be.
When booking I explained we had a young baby who would be asleep (hopefully) in a pram, so why we were put right in the very back left corner I will never know. I was asked by, who we assume was management, to put the buggy out the back of the restaurant to which I refused and was then told: “well we can’t seat you then”. An amicable family offered to help us by passing the buggy over peoples heads and shuffling chairs out of the way. I hadn’t realised how tight you’re packed in the restaurant until we ventured here with a baby in a pram. Bearing in mind Austyn who was in a car seat (which we removed from the pram) even with our iCandy folded, we still couldn’t shuffle through and the reason we wanted him in the pram is so we could easily rock the pram to keep him asleep while we ate – I’m sure any parent could understand that.
Whilst the moving of furniture was going on no members of staff helped, they just stood there with their arms crossed watching us. After many thank you’s, we are eventually seated, and there we sit. And sit. And sit. Bearing in mind we are the table right by the bar, you’d think they would take our drinks order but no. In the end, Beard goes right up to the bar, and here he waits and waits and waits because the staff are doing everything in their power to avoid him. Twenty minutes pass, and we eventually receive our drinks – a warm bottle of Pinot included. Another 10 minutes pass to receive a relatively cold one. We are now an hour in, and we haven’t ordered. It’s not busy, but as before the staff are more interested in chatting with each other. Again, we expressly show that we are ready to order. Nothing. So I end up going over to a waitress and asking if we can order our food to be told “I’ve finished my shift now” and that was that. Beard, again, is forced to order our food at the bar.
The burgers come up, one is wrong, and so Josh notifies the waitress and asks to change it – the dirty look my Autistic son received from her was utterly disgusting. Following the request to receive what we ordered, a row booms from the kitchen – which went on for at least 10 minutes. The couple behind us left without ordering and the few people who were in there were all looking at each other awkwardly. The new burger (as was initially ordered) was then slapped down on the table, and I’m pretty sure it was still mooing, never have I seen such a rare burger before.
My ribs were a shambles – there was absolutely no meat content, just fat and gristle. When pointing this out to a waitress, I was told that I should expect that on ribs. Errrr, not 99% fat and bone, so instead I very much enjoyed my undercooked chips and soggy salad. My relatives who were desperate for some proper ribs were equally disappointed with one portion totally black at one end and the other with more bone than meat. The food quality has definitely lowered yet the prices don’t reflect that. Overpriced for substandard quality.
Despite wanting to get out of there as soon as possible, the kids wanted pudding and what a mistake that was. Not long after ordering the staff huddled around the bar for another chat but this time opted to open up the flood gates of “no f*&king way! What a bastard?!!” said one as she pointed to her phone, to which the other replied “I know right. Proper F$%^ING wanker.”
Now, yes I do swear, but I would NEVER expect staff in a family restaurant using that kind of language directly next to a table with children.
The ice cream arrives, and it’s melted. Just slop. Enough is enough, so we ask for the bill reminding our waitress that I was not going to be paying for my meal or the mooing burger which wasn’t even suitable for our dog, but they refuse to take them off. Apparently, according to, again who we assume were management, we were awkward from the moment we got there. Beard is fuming but decides to just pay and get the hell out of there, never to return again. But of course, we are trapped in because another family are now sitting where the helpful family were when we first arrived.
Realising we were about to politely ask if we could shuffle past them, our waitress approaches and rudely states that due to health and safety they are not permitting us to move the furniture or pass the buggy over peoples heads as we did before, instead she will take the pram through the back and meet us at the front of the restaurant. I’m sure most Mothers will understand my response, which is a categoric, “no, I’ll come with you” to which she rolls her eyes at me and walks away.
A new lady, someone we hadn’t seen before then ushers over and says “I will take your baby out through the back and then walk up the street to the front of the restaurant to meet you. It’s not like I’m going to do anything to it!” For some bizarre reason, the staff thought this was totally reasonable. Not only taking my baby but also calling him “it”.
I however did not think this was reasonable. No one was going to walk my baby out the back of a restaurant through a dark car park and up the street. Eventually, they agreed that I could go with them and thank christ we were finally out of there.
I don’t know what’s happened to this restaurant and how it can become so bad when its reputation was so good. Every time we go past we are hoping to see “under new management” or “closing down”. I can’t understand how it’s still open, I don’t know a single person who goes in there and rates it. It’s a shame because it used to be so popular and everyone loved it, and its location is perfect to be the fantastic place it once was.
***SINCE WRITING THIS, IT IS WITH GREAT PLEASURE THAT DILLINGERS IS UP FOR SALE! DO YOU HAVE £120K? IF SO, BUY IT! HAYES DESERVES THIS DINER COMING BACK TO ITS FORMER GLORY!!!***
***CONSEQUENTLY THE PROPERTY HAS BEEN SOLD TO HELLO BURGER AND IT IS UTTERLY DELICIOUS! LONG MAY HIS RESTAURANT STRIVE!***