Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars
Cardiff’s Clink is a restaurant like no other. The chefs, waiters and cleaners are all prisoners from HMP Prescoed. So, the person serving your food could also be serving a prison stretch for any number of crimes.
It is the first in a series of planned restaurants to be set up in collaboration with The Clink charity and HM prison service. One of it is located in Cardiff, near Queen Street station.
Because of its status as a Category B prison, customers are required to book first and need a security check before dining. It seems a little bit unusual for the first time when you discover the restaurant was opened by a prison.
The waiters are all serving prison terms of 6 months to a year and a half. They behave well, and only prisoners who can control their emotions can apply for the job. Each prisoner employed at the restaurant works and trains for 40 hours every week. It also has a sophisticated security system. The restaurant only opens from 12pm to 2.30pm. It has 24-hour monitoring and warning alarms for preventing any accidents during dining.
As I walked inside The Clink restaurant, I didn’t realize it was a restaurant run by prisoners. The design and decoration was similar to usual restaurants. I recognized it when I saw a card on the table that read ‘don’t take pictures of any of the prisoners here’. After they came to us, the smiles on their faces threw our bias out the door. Kind greetings, good service, formal dress and standardized training made them seem like ordinary waiters.
The Clink restaurant at Cardiff has won several prestigious awards, including the sustainable restaurant association’s 3star award and the Craft Guild of chefs award for education excellence, as stated on the official website. And the menu combines starters, main courses and desserts that taste delicious and are fresh. They use seasonal ingredients and prepare exquisite dishes. It definitely deserves to be tried out.
Working in the restaurant can have a big impact on the life of prisoners as well. A prisoner called Steven, who battled drug addiction and alcoholism says, “Working at The Clink opened my eyes to teamwork, working with the public, but most of all being myself and gaining the confidence to do so”. Steve now leads a normal life and works as a painter and decorator, “working in a restaurant you have no choice but to face people, smile and be polite, there’s nowhere to hide,” he adds.
The Clink’s appearance has given prisoners a chance to develop professional skills and to lead a normal life. Don’t judge a person before you get in touch with them. Try The Clink, you will be surprised and will love it all.