There is something about the atmosphere of a good American diner. Maybe it’s the combination of the decor, music and food; it’s great when a diner gets it right, but sadly many don’t. However, I am extremely pleased to report that we have found a little gem of an American diner and even better, it’s just a few miles away from where we live.
Friendly Phil’s Diner is based at the Venue complex which is part of Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre near Gillingham, Kent. It’s relatively new and has taken up residence in place of what was, Dean’s Diner. Although with Friendly Phil in town, no one really misses Dean anymore.
We were greeted at the door by a cheerful waitress and taken to our table. The restaurant is perfectly lit for a diner: not too bright and with low level lamps to give that night time speak-easy kind of a feel. With reclaimed timbers, brick slips and cosy booth seating, the diner had a warm homely feeling. The music ranged from 1960’s to current day and was an excellent mix to please all age groups.
The menu covers all of your usual diner foods from burgers to hot dogs and from ribs to BBQ chicken. There is a large variety of sides including various house fries with toppings, a mixed house salad, corn on the cob and more.
The restaurant was airy and not too hot, the customer service was excellent and every waitress had a smile on their face and a cheery personality. Nothing was too much trouble.
I ordered the baby back ribs, house salad and corn on the cob. What arrived was a real treat to the eyes and even more to the taste buds – a real American diner flavour.
The ribs were meaty and succulent and smothered in a rich and sticky BBQ sauce, topped with half a chargrilled red jalepeno and a small bowl of house made slaw. The house salad, well, this is a little bowl of summery happiness! A full salad including mixed leaves, grilled pepper slices, olives, tomato and cucumber, is dressed in Cesar dressing. The salad was delicious and I didn’t feel like I had missed out having chosen not to order french fries. Along with the ribs I had corn on the cob as my second side and these were two generous sized cobs that had been grilled just before serving. They were hot, sweet and juicy, cooked to perfection.
We also ordered a chicken burger with salad, cheese and burger sauce as well as chilli cheese fries. The burger went down very well and the chicken was juicy and not dry as so many chicken burgers can be. The salad was fresh and crisp. The burger sauce was tangy and refreshing.
For dessert we ordered hot chocolate brownie with ice cream and the chocolate fudge sundae. The chocolate brownie was rich, sweet and moist in the middle, as every good brownie should be. The sundae was filled to the brim with ice cream, cream, sauce, chocolate brownie pieces and wafers. Every component worked well together to provide an indulgent sweet treat.
One thing I really liked about Friendly Phil’s is that you can see the chefs cooking as the kitchen is completely open to see from the seating area in the restaurant. The restaurant is clean and tidy and all of the waiting staff look smart in the 1950’s style diner uniforms including white shirts, ties and white aprons.
Each meal came to approximately £17.50 per person and this included a main meal, 2 sides, a dessert and an unlimited soft drink. Extremely good value for money for the quality and amount of food you receive. The atmosphere and friendly staff are also a bonus.
So if you are ever in Kent, and have a craving for a good burger or some sticky BBQ ribs, head down to Friendly Phil’s, you’ll have a great time and I hope you enjoy the food as much as we did.