For a special treat on my birthday, JB took me for a meal in prison…before you all look at the screen and say WWHHAAATT??? It’s not what you think…I hadn’t misbehaved and this was my punishment! The Clink is a charity which has 4 restaurants which enables offenders to break the cycle of crime by nurturing self-belief, work place skills and offering qualifications. Prisoners that have 6-18 months left to serve on their sentence are recruited and through a 5 step programme they receive full time training in order gain enough experience to work in the hospitality industry when released. There are 200 employers across the UK willing to give a Clink Graduate a job – these include Wahaca, Carluccio’s to hotel chains such as Thistle. The graduates will have a mentor in their last 3 months to assist them in creating their CV and coaching them with interview techniques. These mentors then spend 6-12 months meeting the graduates on a weekly basis to help them with any issues around reintegrating back into society and reducing the likelihood of reoffending.
On average, 50 prisoners are released into employment from each training project every year. The Clink has also won 35 awards in the last 5 years.
So that’s a little behind the Clink – here’s what we thought!
We visited the Cardiff Clink on a grey, wet day. The Clink is located just on the outside of the prison so that you don’t have to go through any security to enter the building. You have to make a reservation which is done online and they take a £15pp non refundable deposit (which is taken off your final bill at the end). Everyone that works in the restaurant, either front of house or in the kitchen are predominately prisoners. Our waiter was Ross who initially was a little nervous but with JB being his usual chatty, jokey self we were soon having a laugh with him and you could see him instantly relax.
I didn’t go for a starter – I’m more of a main and pud kinda girl (truth be known, I’ll always check out the desserts before I look at the mains!). JB opted for a pork and apricot terrine with roasted shallot puree and a radish salad.
For the main course, we both went for the same – poached and roasted chicken, puy lentils, salsify, glazed carrots, thyme jus. This dish was beautiful, the chicken was so tender and tasty plus the lentils were full of flavour.
Strangely enough, we also had the same for dessert – cox apple and comice pear tarte tatin, clotted cream. Mine came out on a fancy plate with Happy Birthday written in chocolate with a tiny candle on.
I’ll be honest and when we told friends and family where we were going they were a little wary and not sure how they would feel. I can honestly say, it was just like entering any other restaurant we’ve been too – the staff were friendly, the service was outstanding and the food was incredible. We both agreed that we’d definitely visit another Clink restaurant if we were in a city with one. The food was a reasonable £68 however this didn’t include any alcohol…given that they don’t serve it!
You can find a Clink at:
HMP Cardiff / HMP Brixton / HMP High Down (Surrey) / HMP Styal (Manchester)
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