DAKOTA’S AMERICAN BISTRO – HISTORY OF FLEET

Established 1992 - Closed 2002

by For Fleet's Sake
 

ABOUT THIS PAGE

This is a record of a business that used to exist in Fleet Hampshire but has now closed down.

If you have any photos of this business or any additional information/dates etc, please do get in touch as we’d love to add them. If you have any memories or stories to share, please enter them in the comments below.

As well as our main Facebook group, we also have a group dedicated to the history of Fleet and Church Crookham.

To join our online history group, please click here -> Fleet and Crookham History Archives Group

Thank you and hope you enjoy the page!

SUMMARY

Dakotas American Bistro and Bar opened on the 29th April 1992 and closed in 2002. The building was purpose built for the new American Bistro on open land near to the Country Club (no longer in existence). The restaurant was known for its dark wood interior with nostalgic brass features but also for the rather quirky decor…a real Dakota plane.

The tail end of the Dakota plane was placed in the lake next to the building as an advertising prop, highlighting the name of the new restaurant. It became headline news when shocked passers by and those travelling on the nearby railway reported that a plane had crashed in the lake…which of course it hadn’t. The plane was eventually removed.

The nose of the plane and other sections were used to decorate the interior of the restaurant – the main undercarriage leg, tailwheel and refurbished R1830-92 engine were put on display in bar.

For more information about the history of the plane, see the section below.

“Most people now know of “The Heron on the Lake” restaurant on the Fleet Road but in the early 1990s it was named “Dakotas”. The owners had bought an old Dakota aircraft from Malta, had it shipped to the UK, had it cut up so that the rear of the aircraft could be positioned in the small part of Fleet pond as an advertising hoarding – the nose was cut off and positioned inside the restaurant at the end of the bar. Large pieces of the aircraft were placed around the eating area including the undercarriages, engines, propellers etc. It all made for an interesting meal!” – Barry Goldsack.


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LOCATION(S)

They used to occupy the address below:

MEMORIES OF DAKOTAS

Everyone seems to have their own memories of Dakota’s, which certainly oozed personality…what were your memories?

Dambusters – the giant desserts that awarded you with a certificate for eating it all!

Ceiling plane – the mini plane that travelled around the ceiling above the bar area.

Birthdays – being made to stand on your chair while everyone sang Happy Birthday to you!

Halloween – the effort of the manager to pull out all the stops when it came to decorations!

“They built a gallows on the roof. Clive [Clive Mobey – Manager] said it would be good to put a body in it. They got 200 phone calls about someone hanging themselves. And one of the dummies that was stored in the shed was one night taken out and thrown in the pond. Les got a phone call from Clive to get down there. Police cars, ambulances all sorts.” – James Parkes

Well we might not have photos of all those memories (please contact us if you have any to add!) but this article from 1992 shows the ceiling plane and a few other goodies – hopefully it will bring back a few memories for you!


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VIDEOS

This is a short clip from the 1992 Fleet carnival, showing a glimpse of a Dakota’s float. Many thanks to Terry Horner for the footage!


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PLANE HISTORY

The plane used for Dakota’s Bistro had a varied history before its journey to Fleet in Hampshire and was involved in the liberation of Europe. After Dakota’s closed down in 2002, the plane parts found their way to various museums where they can still be seen today.

“DOUGLAS DAKOTA III. KG437.
On 5th June 1944 at 10.50pm, thirty Dakotas towing six Horsa gliders and carrying 407 Paras began taking off from Blakehill Farm as 233 Squadron joined the force that dropped the main elements of the 3rd Parachute Brigade in advance of the main landings on D.Day. One of the aircraft involved was Douglas Dakota III KG437 of 233 Squadron which was again involved in the ill-fated Operation ‘Market Garden’. KG437 was struck off RAF charge on 8th February 1946 to begin a long and varied civilian career that began with the fledgling British European Airways as G-AGYX ‘RMA George Holt-Thomas’. It served in this capacity until April 1961 when it was sold to Libya before finding its way to the Netherlands for use on charter work for Martinair. Some time was later spent in Nigeria and Malta before being seen as derelict in Khartoum in 1980. By 1987 the aircraft had been moved to Malta but was minus its wings and engines. Eventually the aircraft was returned to the UK for use in the Dakotas ‘American Bistro at John Woodhouse’s Flying Services Facility at Fleet in Hampshire. It was at this point that the nose section parted company with the fuselage, the fuselage and tailplane being placed in Fleet Pond as a display feature to attract custom, the fuselage itself having been cut longitudinally to form two sides of the cocktail bar. The cockpit, main undercarriage leg, tailwheel oleo and a refurbished R1830-92 engine went on display in the bar.” – Keith Gallocker

The plane tail, which never had planning permission to go into the lake, was put there to advertise the name of the restaurant – and certainly did that! Les Southall who was involved in the process explained how he and a guy called Stuart simply walked the plane into the lake as it was quite shallow. “The body of the plane was a big pipe with a tale attached. The fuselage was inside the building. Someone on a train reported it as a crashed plane.” In the end, Les and Stuart removed the plane from the water.

Below: From the Royal Airforce Museum.

Below: The History of the Dakota

Scroll to view document.


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PLANNING

Like most businesses, planning permission was required for some upgrades to the restaurant. Below are two planning documents for Dakotas American Bistroin 1995/1996 as well as the request in 1992 to place the plane in the lake. Make sure you scroll through the documents to see the plans at the end.

Below: Planning permission for enclosure of jetty and additional toilet facilities 1995/96. Plans shown at end of document.

Below: Planning permission for kitchen extension with staff cloakroom and toilets 1995/96. Plans shown at end of document.

Below: Application for the infamous plane in the lake 1992.


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PHOTO GALLERY

An album of all/any images associated with this business that appears on our website.

To see more images and other occupants of this location, please click the address link(s) above.

Photo credits are listed on the individual images.

(Click on photo to enlarge and scroll through selection)

RELATED POSTS

All information and articles on our website which feature this business, or the address(es) it occupied are listed below:

COMMENTS

Do you have thoughts, comments or memories to share? We’d love to hear from you…so please leave a comment!


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