A family said they were left to eat cold sandwiches at home on Christmas Day after their festive meal was cancelled by a restaurant.

Hazel Hirst, 72, of Harold Hill told the Recorder that they had booked their Christmas Day lunch at the Liberty Bell in Romford days ago.

She said her daughter was sent a confirmation email of their paid reservation on Christmas Eve by the Beefeater branch.

But the wheelchair user described how when she, her ill husband, brother-in-law, daughter, daughter’s partner, and five-year-old granddaughter reached the venue, they found people queuing outside.

She said: “When we got there, the car park was absolutely rammed full. We weren’t expecting that, so we parked right near the bottom end and my daughter wheelchaired me all the way to the entrance.

“We wondered why people were queuing outside the door. We couldn’t get in, no staff were available there."

She said a fellow customer, who was also waiting and had gone in to enquire, told their family that people had been offered refunds due to delays.

Mrs Hirst claimed that they were told that 18 of Liberty Bell’s staff had quit recently - they were not sure on which day - and that the girl who was doing the refunds had only been working there for three days.

The family had to wait for about an hour to get their refund and her granddaughter started “sobbing” as she could not understand why they could not get the meal they went for.

Mrs Hirst said: “We then just came back home and had to eat cold sandwiches. Our Christmas day was entirely ruined.

“It was an absolutely disgusting way to treat people. It was appalling. I don’t know how many other people were left in the same boat."

The Recorder contacted Brewers Fayre, which owns Liberty Bell, for a response.

A spokesperson said they were “really sorry” to hear of Mrs Hirst’s experience on their visit and revealed that Liberty Bell has recently undergone “significant changes”.

They added: “This unfortunately meant that despite the team working their hardest, they were running behind in their service of the first lunch sitting, this inevitably led to further delays to customers booked in for the second Christmas lunch sitting.”

As a result of this, they said, several customers like Mrs Hirst were informed on arrival of the delay and were given an option to cancel their booking and receive a refund.

“We appreciate that on such a special day of the year this would have led to a great deal of disappointment, and we are very sorry that on this occasion we were not able to deliver the high standards customers would usually expect from us," the spokesperson added.

Along with extending their apologies to Mrs Hirst, the restaurant said their team will reach out to her directly and welcome her and her family back in the new year.