Prisoners serve up restaurant style
Published 19/09/2012 | 16:12
With goats cheese tart made by a drugs mule and hand made pastries put together by a convicted killer, a new restaurant run by prisoners is bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "doing porridge".
The Clink Cymru, located slap-bang outside Cardiff HMP, is a new scheme aiming to offer diners haute cuisine at reasonable prices while teaching inmates new skills.
The 96-cover air conditioned restaurant in the Welsh capital features plenty of the hallmarks of fine dining - from its iridescent lighting to plush leather chairs.
Items on the menu sound more like the stuff of posh London restaurant Claridge's than off a prison wing - with dishes including braised pheasant with cranberries and Aylesbury duck breast and confit leg with orange gremolata.
The fact that food is served and prepared by convicted criminals is only subtly reinforced by arty style photographs of a prison wing and poems about life inside, which have been etched on to frosted glass.
But despite its plush trappings and unique set-up, charity bosses and Ministry of Justice officials insist the project is not a soft option - and aims to provide rehabilitation as well as reducing reoffending rates.
Richard Booty is the governor of Cardiff Prison, which is operating the scheme in conjunction with The Prison Service and charity The Clink.
He said: "This is not about being nice to prisoners or going soft on them. Prison is about learning to be respectful and decent members of society. Part of my mission is to ensure that the public remains protected but another is to reduce the risk of reoffending for those who will be released. This scheme would not be running if there was not some positive outcomes at the end of it."
The concept of The Clink was initially devised by award-winning chef Alberto Crisci after running cookery classes at HMP High Down in Surrey. The product of Italian parents and an Epsom upbringing, he had carved out a successful career in cooking with his CV including a stint at top Mayfair restaurant Mirabelle.
He said: "The reason why I started doing the cooking classes in the first place was because I wanted to give something back and help people. I was amazed by some of the talents that some of the inmates had, and it seemed to me that it was such a waste these talents were not put to good use. So, setting up a restaurant and a system where prisoners would get qualifications as well as vital experience seemed like the next logical step."