Tuesday 5th July – 26th meeting of 2016
Today a long await event for us. Lunch at The Clink Restaurant, Brixton Prison. We had planned to do this a while ago and thanks to the patience of one of the ladies it was arranged.
All nine of us meet at Orpington Station and took the train to Brixton. Here we walked to catch the bus to the prison. Brixton is very cosmopolitan and very busy. The streets full of people hurrying about their business. It was only about four stops which didn’t take much time at all so as we arrived rather early and we found a lovely little cafe for a drink. It was decorated in all bright colours and had the feel and smell of the Carrribean.
We then went to the prison reception office. Here we passed over our id cards (freedom passes) and in return were given a lanyard with id card to wear. The staff of two explained all the rules and regulations that apply before entry into the prison. Bags, phones, chewing gum, cameras were a few of the forbidden items and only £50 in cash allowed. We put all our bags etc into a locker and were then escorted through the first prison door to be greeted by another huge door which we were taken through, a short walk over the courtyard to the Restaurant area. The Clink Charity restaurant service was the idea of Alberto Crisci a chef who wanted to give inmates a better chance of work to change their lives and also reduce re-offending rates. The first restaurant was opened in 2009 in High Downe prison in 2009. There are now three restaurants and it has links and support with many London restaurants and hotels who offer work to offenders on their release. Re-offending rates have dramatically dropped since the system has been running for prisoners who take part.
We were taken to the restaurant which was the old governor’s office that has been converted into a really smart modern restaurant with very pleasing decor. Escorted to our table by one of the waiting inmates we were given food menus and drinks menus, no alcohol served. The menu was very good and varied. My choice starter, Chargrilled asparagus, burnt onion and chive mayonnaise, main, Poached fillet of cod, parmentier potatoes, fresh peas and minted pea puree, dessert Elderflower and strawberry panna cotta and lovely it was too! Lots of the ingredients are grown in the prison garden and the menu is changed seasonally. I ordered a Mocktail which was delicious, strawberry and apple flavour. We all enjoyed our food and was very happy with the service.
All waiting staff was very good, friendly, pleasing and gave excellent service. Our waiter said that he was to be released at the end of the week and that he had enjoyed the course. The waiting staff are inmates with 6-9 months sentence but kitchen staff are longer servicing offenders. It is sometimes possible to do both courses for longer serving inmates.
The food was very good. Cooking, taste and presentation were excellent. Although not full the restaurant had a very nice atmosphere and was as good as any London restaurant.
After our meal we were escorted back to the reception office where we collected our belongings and returned our id lanyards and were free to leave.
We had had a lovely lunch which surprised us all on the excellent service, food and surroundings. We made our way home and I think for most of us it had been one of our best days!