Prison

Prison

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Review of The Clink Restaurant (Guest Post)

The latest in our series of guest posts is by Jonathan Robinson, an ex-prisoner and alleged author. He campaigns – independently – for prison reform (www.JonathanRobinson.org). 


The Fish is Freshly Caught – So’s the Staff…

The late Michael Winner – film director and I-don’t-take-no-prisoners – ever – Sunday Times restaurant reviewer – visited HMP High Down’s Clink Charity fine dining eatery in 2011. He raved about it. Sensible man. Mr Winner was absolutely charming – but a terrible name dropper.

The author outside The Clink
The last time I visited HMP Brixton’s Clink I was in the company of Justin Welby – also known as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Bish liked The Clink. Sensible man.

Before arriving for my latest visit I had that morning been interviewed on Good Morning Britain by Piers Morgan – he wanted to know why I thought our prison system is not doing very well. I told him. He nodded. Sensible man.

As I told Mr Morgan on the telly-box of our horrendous reoffending rates – and the lack of purposeful activity in our prisons, Bob Neil MP – Chairman of the Justice Select Committee – sat next to me nodding. Sensible man.

The Clink, Brixton (exterior)
Most of my diatribe to our Piers was how on earth does a prison system expect its customers to come out the other end of their sentence as reformed individuals when the majority of them are
banged-up (that’s a prison phrase – it translates as banged up – think about it) 23 hours a day watching Jeremy Kyle? (punishment in itself).

During his tragically brief tenure as Secretary of State for Justice, I hear Michael Gove MP was a regular at various Clink eateries. He saw the light – and potential – in getting prisoners working – and chucking encouragement at them – whilst they were serving time. Sensible man.

The Clink, Brixton
I’d been in HMP Brixton about a month before my latest Clink visit. Our current Secretary of State, Elizabeth Truss MP, gave a speech on the virtues of prison education. After she had concluded said propaganda, she, her personal private secretary and I walked around the prison grounds. Yours truly stopped her outside The Clink’s front door and asked her if she had visited any of their-proven-to-reduce-reoffending establishments yet? “No”.

The Clink’s philosophy is to take on inmates and train them on every aspect you could possibly think of in the restaurant trade – from washing up and preparing veg to front of house duties all the way up to actually cooking what’s on offer – and believe me – the food is great. No, it’s not – it’s historic. I am not alone in my judgement – Trip Advisor now rates The Clink Brixton as number 12 out of 17,372 competitor restaurants in London. Who says prisoners cannot do a good job when tasked – and trained – with good (innovative) ideas?

Slow-braised British beef
Our current reoffending rates are off the Richter scale. More than half of the individuals who have schlepped along the HMP conveyor belt are re-convicted for further offences within a year of release from prison.

Folk who have been through Clink’s scheme have a collective reoffending rate of only 6 percent. Have I got your attention yet? Food for thought?

Tronçon of turbot chowder
As I tucked into my starter – game terrine with damson chutney and elderberry syrup (£5.95) – taking in the atmosphere, I could well have been in the Dorchester or the Savoy Grill except the prices are far more easy on the pocket. My main course (chestnut and tarragon stuffed chicken breast, lollypop wing, dauphinoise potato with seasoned [delicious] vegetables with thyme jus) was on the menu at £13.50. The upcoming Christmas menu – which is stuffed with traditional festive fare – offers lunch at £29.95 per person and dinner at £34.95 per person.

Goat's cheese & beetroot ravioli
The previous Chief Inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, used to say if you want to know what’s going on in a prison, “ask a prisoner.” Sensible man. After lunch, I got chatting – in the kitchens – to some of the guys working (bloody hard) to get their thoughts…

Comments from the potential future Jamie Olivers ranged from “It’s brilliant. I’m out in two weeks and they’ve got me a job” to “I’ve learnt so much. It’s sorted me out. I’m so grateful.”

Blackberry & plum clafoutis
Seems to me that whilst serving time – getting prisoners serving thyme (and similar) isn’t the daftest of ideas. Like the food, the whole concept is completely stunning. If you haven’t been to a Clink – please – I implore you – go and see for yourself. You’d be very sensible.

As well as HMP Brixton, The Clink Charity restaurants can be found in Cardiff (ranked by Trip Advisor number 3 out of 887 local restaurants), Cheshire (ranked by Trip Advisor number 1 - !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – out of 63 Wilmslow restaurants) and the previously mentioned High Down (ranked by Trip Advisor – yes you guessed it – number 1 out of 120 restaurants in Sutton).

4 comments:

  1. Talking crap, just like your books, just another journeyman looking for an opportunity to feed his ego claimng to have a clue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are Rent-a-Flame and I claim my £5 (probably payable in flame)

      Delete
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