My sister and her fiance have been in Prison. Not actually behind bars of course, but to a restaurant located in Brixton Prison. As soon as I heard, I insisted that she write a guest post for me and so without further adieu, a little word from my sister on what life is like on the inside…
When my fiance announced that for our Christmas meal we would be dining as ‘Guests of her Majesty’ I was thoroughly confused. And upon learning what that phrase meant I can’t say that I was any less confused. After a few more cryptic clues I learned that we would be having lunch at the Clink Restaurant at Her Majesty’s Prison in Brixton.
The Brixton Clink Restaurant is part of the Clink Charity which operates in prisons across the UK. They work towards reducing reoffending rates amongst prisoners by offering them the chance to gain a qualification in the food service industry. Without knowing what to expect I agreed, thinking that it would be an interesting experience and at the very least a worthy cause to support.
Since we’re heading to jail, the procedure for entering the restaurant wasn’t simple. For the safety and security of all those involved we had our IDs checked and all contraband placed into lockers in an office outside the actual prison walls; including mobile phones and sharp objects. In the end I decided it was easier to just leave my bag in the lockers there so I didn’t have to worry about inadvertently bringing anything in. We were only allowed to bring in a cheque book to pay for the meal and a maximum of £50 in cash. While we prepaid for the meal we took in a bit of cash in case we decided we would like a soft drink – the premise is not licensed to serve alcohol.
We were then led into the prison complex through two sets of gates. While going through we learned that there are a few members of the prison who are allowed to leave for work placements and we see their belongings that are kept secure lockers at the gate. Through the gates it was a short walk to the restaurant along the high fences topped with barbed wire.
The restaurant decor is quite classic however it did have hints of personality around the place in the form of drawings and articles about the prison. When we arrived only a few tables were filled but it did fill during the course of our meal, which added some atmosphere to the otherwise quiet area.
For lunch they offered a two or three course meal option and being Christmas (the time for indulgent eating) we of course went for the three course option. For my starter I went for the Goats’ cheese and red onion tartlet with pesto dressing and micro herbs while the man chose the Chicken liver pâté, fruit chutney and brown toast. Eating that food gave me some idea of what it must be like to be a judge on shows like MasterChef where they have to judge the food when it is at room temperature. Both dishes were tasty, tasting very much as you would expect them to, however not being a Masterchef judge I would have preferred them to be warm.
Because there weren’t many people in the restaurant the service was very efficient and the next course arrived quick smart. As it was our Christmas lunch we both went for the classic Roast English beef and Yorkshire pudding. And I have to say that it was the vegetables that won me over. They weren’t over cooked having a bit of bite to them and after having had to suffer through overcooked vegetables before this made me very happy. The meat was a bit dry which let the side down a little after my gushing over the vegetables.
The final course was to be a Classic fruit trifle for me and a Traditional Christmas pudding with a vanilla crème Anglaise for him. They were classic desserts, done well and definitely the highlight of the meal for me.
Overall the experience was unique, intriguing and enjoyable and with its success so far, I think the Charity is doing great work; having reduced the re-offending rates of prisoners in the scheme by 73% since its launch.
Do you think you could be tempted to go to dinner in jail? I think it’s a great idea, not only teaching inmates a useful skill but also offering them the chance to work within that field and gain really relevant experience to make the most of what they can achieve on the outside!
Photos aren’t allowed of course, so the accompanying shot is just of grey ol’ London town!