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Dine Inside a Prison at London’s The Clink

Dine Inside a Prison at London’s The Clink

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The inside of one of The Clink's locations in Cardiff.

Doing time inside the Brixton Prison in London may not be such a bad thing, for adventurous eaters that is. The Clink, an inmate rehabilitation charity with a series of restaurants in England located inside prisons and staffed by inmates, just opened its new location in Brixton Prison. The Clink offers an opportunity for inmates to gain job training through food preparation, service and cleaning. Yes, you read that right. When you dine at The Clink, your waiter, chef, and busboy are all inmates. The Clink’s aim is not only to provide a unique dining experience, but also to avoid repeat prisoner offenses.

“Encouraging meaningful work and training in prisons will help offenders address the issues that led to their imprisonment in the first place so they can turn their lives around for good,” said Jeremy Wright MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Minister for Prisons and Rehabilitation.

But before you worry too much about the safety of your family and your wallet, The Clink’s restaurants are high security experiences for guests 18 years of age and older. Reservations must be made online ahead of time,you can only bring 80 dollars in cash (the meal must be paid by check), and each guest must get their fingerprint scanned and go through security.

So what about the food itself? Cyrus Todiwala, a BBC-TV celebrity chef, just signed on as head chef at The Clink. Inmate chefs will prepare a three-course meal for diners, that may include roast squash tortellini with spinach & a pesto dressing as a starter, and pollock braised in white wine & tomatoes with saffron & seasonal greens risotto for an entrée.

Created Apr 22, 2003 | Updated Dec 28, 2010

The Building

The Central Criminal Court in London stands on the original site of Newgate Prison 1 . There has been a prison on this site since the 12th Century, if not before. It was rebuilt a number of times - Dick Whittington 2 left a bequest to rebuild it, and, in 1422, a licence was granted to the executors 'to re-edify the gaol of Newgate'. At the end of the 16th Century it had to be 'new fronted and new faced' it also had to be rebuilt after the Great Fire in 1666. It was considered a bottleneck a century later, and was demolished (including the gateway) in 1770. It took eight years 3 to rebuild. The Gordon rioters set fire to Newgate in 1780, and the interior was reconstructed for the final time.

When the rebuilding was finished in 1672, the difference between the inside and the outside could not have been greater it was a magnificent structure. Facing Snow Hill was a statue of Dick Whittington and his cat, underneath the emblematical figures of Liberty, Peace, Security and Plenty. On the east side there were statues depicting Justice, Fortitude and Plenty.


Those who refused to plead 4 would be taken to the prison and pressed until they changed their mind or died. This involved being tied, spread-eagled, to the floor wearing virtually nothing, and having a board laid on the top. Weights were added each day, and the prisoner given nothing but water and a few scraps of bread for days. If they managed to stay silent until they died, they could not be found guilty, and the crown could not confiscate their estates. Prior to 1426, the punishment for refusing to plead was starvation, but the method was changed because too many prisoners were allowing themselves to die.

Life Inside

With over 350 crimes punishable by death 5 in the 18th century - and transportation, branding and other forms of public penance taking care of many of the rest - long prison sentences were almost unheard of. However, many stayed in prison until they died, despite receiving a short sentence, or no sentence at all. With no police force, catching criminals was very difficult. Execution was supposed to deter other would-be lawbreakers.

Of the 150 prisons in London, Newgate was the largest, most notorious and the worst. It had room for between 40 and 50 prisoners at various times. Because prisons were privately run, any time spent in prison had to be paid for by the prisoner gaoler in those times was a lucrative position, and one that had to be paid for. 'Garnish' had to be paid on arrival, payments for candles, soap and other supplies had to be made. Heavy manacles - often painfully constricting - were attached to prisoners and then secured to chains and staples in the floor. The prisoner could pay to have lighter manacles fitted ('easement of irons'), or have them removed entirely. The freedom to walk around could also be bought, if enough money changed hands. Prisoners were also housed according to their ability to pay, ranging from a private cell with a cleaning woman and a visiting prostitute, to simply lying on the floor with no cover and barely any clothes. Lice were everywhere, and only a quarter of the prisoners survived until their execution day. Infectious diseases like typhus - the so-called 'gaol-fever', which was spread throughout the prison by lice and fleas, killed far more people than the gallows.

Food was provided by the authorities, and by charities to those who could not pay, but cooking wasn't included and so it was often eaten raw. Drink was also available - the prison had a bar - although the prices were extortionate. Leaving prison was not simply a matter of finishing a sentence and walking out. A departure fee had to be paid and, until it was, prisoners could not leave. Those who died inside had to stay there as a rotting corpse until relatives found the money for it to be released. The stench was unimaginable, and unavoidable for the incarcerated. Nearby shops were often forced to close in the summer because of the unbearable smell. It wasn't unusual for children to be conceived and born inside the prison, for men and women freely mingled, and the women found that they could swap sex for food if they became pregnant they could 'plead the belly' in an attempt to avoid hanging. Surviving children were taken to the workhouse, where their chances weren't much better. Prisoners often had their entire families inside the prisons with them, including any family pets 6 .

Spiritual Life

Prison chaplains (called 'Ordinaries') held services inside the prison, although the chaos there often resulted in the Ordinary having to shout to be heard during a sermon. They also held the service for the condemned. Gathered around their coffins, the prisoners would listen to a lengthy sermon on the Sunday before they were taken to the Tyburn tree, with the fee-paying public in the gallery.

Ordinaries also attended the condemned in the prison on the eve of their execution. Supposedly bringing them spiritual peace of mind, they were usually more interested in getting prisoners' stories so that they could sell them as broadsheets at huge profit on the way to Tyburn.

The tenor bell in the bell tower at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate was rung on mornings when there was an execution. The 'execution bell' was a hand bell that was rung for other services concerning condemned prisoners it was also rung outside the condemned cell at midnight. The bellman would repeat the following verse three times as he paced outside the condemned cells. A merchant taylor, Robert Dove, gave £40 to the parish in 1604 to ensure that this was done, in the hope that the prisoners would seek redemption.

Newgate Prison acquired its own bell in 1783, and the tenor bell was no longer used on execution mornings.


When executions were stopped at Tyburn, they moved to Newgate, and public burnings 7 and hangings were carried out in the open area in front of the smoke-blackened prison until 1868. Hangings were carried out on the 'new drop' – a portable gallows with a collapsible platform. Intended to break necks and bring death more quickly, this unfortunately depended on the hangman making sure that the rope was the right length, and very few got it right, if they even bothered to try.

After 1868, hangings were carried out within the walls of the prison. 'Dead Men's Walk' was the burial ground for those executed here, under the stone flags of the corridor that connected the prison with the adjoining courts. Suspended over a pit in the prison yard, the gallows were built so that they could hold three prisoners at a time. This was also intended to break necks, but most of the prisoners continued to slowly strangle to death

After Newgate Was Demolished

When Newgate prison was finally demolished in 1902 the gallows were moved to Pentonville Prison, where more criminals were executed than at any other British prison up to the last execution in July 1961.

The male prisoners were also moved to Pentonville, and the women moved to the recently-renovated Holloway Prison for women.

The Central Criminal Court next door was also knocked down with the prison. Building began on the site in 1903 (using as much of the prison stone as possible), and three years later the new Central Criminal Court (The old Bailey) was finished.

Fascinating Facts

Last execution at Newgate was in May 1902.

Newgate prison occupied the site of the main west gate into London in Roman times.

The last triple execution at Newgate was 19 May, 1901.

The Debtors' Door of the prison is now on display in the Museum of London, along with other relics.

The phrase 'Black as a Newgate's Knocker' (meaning very black indeed) refers to the door knocker on the entrance to the prison.

Quirky and unusual places to eat in London

One of the coolest restaurants in London for both tourists and locals alike, Basement Galley’s Underground Supper Club gives you the unique opportunity to eat on the London tube without getting the side-eye from fellow passengers for stinking out the carriage with your dinner.

Underground Supper Club is l ocated in a decommissioned 1967 Victoria Line tube carriage (sorry, it doesn’t move!) at Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum, with the original interior remaining almost untouched other than the addition of dining tables.

The Supper Club is run by Nick Atkins and Head Chef Beatriz Maldonado (Bea) who originally hails from Bogotá in Colombia and has created a menu of delicious dishes featuring local favours from her home in South America.

Make sure to book in advance as the venue only seats 35 diners each evening.

The latest UK dining hotspot: Prison

Beyond a mesh of barbed wire, patrolling guards and security cameras, the Clink serves up Michelin-style cuisine and helps inmates prepare for life beyond the prison walls.

“Doing porridge” is what inmates in UK prisons call serving time. It’s slang for the bowls of gloopy, boiled oats that were once ladled out every morning at lockups across the country. But the saying has taken on a whole new meaning following the launch of open-to-the-public restaurants inside select British prisons, where convicts work as chefs and kitchen assistants, cooking Michelin-style cuisine.

The brainchild of The Clink Charity, set up to reduce reoffending rates of ex-offenders by training and placing graduates into employment upon their release, three prison restaurants now operate in the UK. The newest is The Clink in south London’s Brixton neighbourhood, opened February 2014. You can find it beyond the menacingly thick-steel doors of Her Majesty’s Prison: a mesh of barbed wire, patrolling guards, sniffer dogs and security cameras. Given that dining at the jail requires an in-depth security briefing before a reservation is confirmed, visiting can be, well, complicated.

You must book 72 hours in advance, be at least 18 years old and prepared to turn over your mobile phone when you arrive. Handbags and purses must be left behind, pockets need to be emptied and you may be subject to a biometric assessment that includes having your fingerprints and photograph taken. But those willing to comply are in for a unique experience.

At the Brixton restaurant, the dining room décor features textured stone walls and mood lighting – you could almost imagine you’re in one of London’s finest hotels. The banquet seating and tables – handcrafted in prison workshops – couldn’t be further from the image of prison life.

The gourmet menu changes daily. Dishes vary from the likes of pan-seared cod loin with pea crust, confit potatoes, pancetta and samphire, to thyme roast guinea fowl with celeriac rosti and chargrilled vegetables. Dessert could be a chocolate and chili tart served with lime infused crème fraiche – or a variety of ice creams, all of which are made fresh onsite, every morning. Could a Michelin star be next?

“We’ve been visited by the Michelin team,” said Chris Moore, chief executive of The Clink Charity, with a chuckle. “But we’re not open to the public in the traditional sense as a walk-in, walk-out restaurant, so we’re not eligible – though they did say they loved the place.”

Of course, some would argue that this 120-seat restaurant is the least desirable place in the country to dine. But they’d be missing the trick the idea of inmates being entrusted with sharp knives and dangerous cooking utensils is not as fanciful as it seems. Only non-violent offenders can participate, and those who do are subjected to a rigorous interview process (with hundreds of inmates from prisons across the country applying for every job). Successful candidates work eight hours a day, 40 hours a week and each training session is meticulous (knives and sharper kitchen implements are kept under lock and key when not in use). More importantly, The Clink has a serious community purpose at its heart. The project is part of a greater five-step rehabilitation programme to recruit, train, audit, employ and mentor inmates to reduce overall reoffending rates.

“We’re focused on the bigger picture,” Moore said. “When you come out of prison you need to have a tough skin. It’s difficult to find work, to get a mortgage, to pay bills. Society is against you and that’s why so many former prisoners reoffend. That’s where The Clink is really making a difference.”

The statistics don’t lie. Following the success of the first two Clink restaurants – one located at High Down in Surrey, and Clink Cymru at HMP Cardiff in Wales – reoffending rates have plummeted. Currently 49% of ex-convicts in the UK reoffend within one year of release for those who serve sentences under 12 months this increases to 61%. But in 2011, the reoffending rate of graduates from The Clink was only 12.5%. The number of reoffenders for 2012 is believed to be around 6%, another huge drop below the national average.

One of the main reasons for this is the charity’s ongoing mentoring programme. After prisoners are released, The Clink Charity helps graduates find employment within the catering and hospitality sectors, counselling them each week for six to 12 months to help them reintegrate into society. Many have found work in high street restaurants, including Carluccio’s, Prezzo, Wahaca and Locanda Locatelli – four of the UK’s most successful chains.

And that’s not the end of the story. By 2017, The Clink Charity plans to add seven more restaurants across the UK – the next, due to open in spring 2015, is at HMP Styal, a women’s prison near Manchester. And there are now two Clink Gardens, where inmates farm fruit, vegetables and herbs to supply the restaurants. The charity has also recently invested in livestock to teach inmates animal husbandry.

But the restaurants, of course, are at the centre of the programme – and they’re proving to be surprisingly popular.

“We’ve had 12,000 visitors to the restaurant so far,” Moore said, referring to the Brixton location. “That’s 1,000 people a month – a real cross-section of society. So we’re changing the public’s perception of what life in a prison is like, and we’re helping out the hospitality industry. It operates like a normal restaurant, really – you just can’t sneak out for a cigarette break.”

High Down prison chefs show Gordon Ramsay how it's done

G ordon Ramsay's Channel 4 series Gordon Behind Bars shows how teaching burglars, thieves and drug dealers to cook and sell food can be a testing experience for everyone involved. But away from the TV cameras, a prison has for three years been training inmates to be chefs on the inside, and the outside, with impressive results.

Ross, 29, had never expected to become a chef, and after being locked up the prospect seemed even more remote. Yet when he began his sentence at High Down prison in Sutton, south London, managers were embarking on a scheme to give prisoners skills by setting up a restaurant called, fittingly, the Clink. Opened in May 2009, with £300,000 of funding raised from benefactors and trustees of the Clink charity, it has trained 29 prisoners, or "graduates", all of whom have been placed in jobs in the hospitality industry after leaving prison.

"This is where my life-changing career path began – I saw how well organised and structured the kitchen was, and wanted to be a part of it," says Ross. "When I was released, my mentor got me an interview at a four-star hotel and a few days later I got a call to say they would take me on as an apprentice."

Alberto Crisci, High Down's catering manager and a trained chef, wanted to open a restaurant for the public and when space became available he put the idea to prison governor Peter Dawson, who – once he was satisfied with security arrangements – offered enthusiastic support.

Sitting in the stylish surroundings of the Clink restaurant, it is hard to believe you are in a prison. Smartly dressed waiters glide around, and the kitchen, staffed by 28 prisoners in chefs' overalls in view of the diners, is buzzing with activity. The only telltale sign is the plastic cutlery.

The extensive menu bears comparison to many upmarket restaurants and the food lives up to the glowing reviews.

To work in the restaurant, prisoners should be within six to 18 months of the end of their sentence and be judged to have the right temperament.

"I'm very tough on them from the first day and they know that if they mess around they'll be out," says Crisci, sounding not unlike Ramsay. "That's partly because we need good discipline in the kitchen, where they have to work as part of a team, but also so they're prepared for the real world of work when they leave prison."

But that is where any similarity to the televised culinary entertainment ends. As the High Down prisoners' training progresses, they can gain national vocational qualifications (NVQs) in food preparation, food and drink service, cleaning and food hygiene.

Matt, 38, applied for a transfer to High Down so he could work as a waiter at the Clink. "I'd been working in the kitchens at my first prison and thought that this was something I'd really like to get involved with. I prefer being involved with service to customers and I'd like to work at this full time," he says. On his release, he has been offered a job at a nearby women's prison where an extension of the restaurant operates.

Figures published tomorrow by the Prison Reform Trust show that only 36% of prisoners go into education, training or employment after release. It also reveals that there are only 24,000 work places for prisoners in workshops, catering, cleaning, land-based activity and day-release programmes, which means that, at most, only a third of the prison population is involved in work activity at any one time.

The national reoffending rate for prisoners is around 47%. Chris Moore, the Clink charity's chief executive, says: "We've managed to reduce that to around 10% among those who have been trained in the Clink. If we can place ex-offenders in jobs that they feel are rewarding, they won't need to go back to a life of crime."

The charity has signed up 120 companies that have agreed to take on graduates in a wide variety of jobs, including catering, food delivery and customer service. After an ex-offender is placed in a job, a mentor visits them regularly for the first six months.

The Clink hopes to roll out its award-winning model to 10 more prisons in England and Wales in the next five years and have more than 50 graduates. The first of these restaurants will be in Cardiff prison. The head chef will be High Down prisoner Ken, 38, who had already served a prison sentence of six years before he came to High Down and is now a qualified City and Guilds instructor in catering. He will shortly be transferred to Cardiff.

Ken says: "I think it will be a challenge, but I'm hoping it will give me good experience that I can use when I come out of prison."

Luminary Bakery

Luminary Bakery isn’t just our local bakery, but one of our favourites in London… and not just because they make some of the best cinnamon swirls we’ve ever had! The bakery is a social enterprise designed to offer opportunities for women from an economic and social disadvantage to build a future for themselves. Encouraging ambition, restoration and second chances, they use baking as a tool to take women on a journey to employability and entrepreneurship.

71-73 Allen Road, London N16 8RY

Dine Inside a Prison at London’s The Clink - Recipes

I've been waiting to dine here for ages and it was well worth the wait. Fascinating chat with our waiter and the manager and you really feel they are trying to make a difference. A little strange eating with plastic cutlery but that is to be expected. Sunday roast was very good. A little on the pricey side but you are paying for the experience.

50 - 54 of 1,017 reviews

The Clink Restaurant in Brixton Prison is an absolutely unique and special experience. After a security check you are led into a welcoming, modern and intimate dining area and introduced to the person who will be looking after your table. The food is beautifully prepared and presented and tasted wonderful. The service was excellent with particular thanks to James, our waiter, who was professional, friendly and for whom nothing was too much trouble. His colleague Timothy was also attentive, helpful and friendly.

We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch here, the roasts were well cooked, portions very generous and my husband was very complimentary about the Yorkshire pud, of which he is an afficianado. The serving staff were much more efficient and pleasant than in many top rated restaurants, and we particularly enjoyed chatting with Alex and James, both were really super. A wonderful enterprise, we will be back.

I went for dinner at the Clink with a group of friends. We were looked after by Abul who couldn't have been more helpful. The food and service was fantastic but the highlight of the evening was definitely chatting to Abul who was open and friendly and who highlighted the value of the Clink initiative. Such a great evening!

Went for Sunday Lunch at The Clink today and can thoroughly recommend you go! After a quick briefing and security checks we were inside the prison and escorted to the restaurant. The restaurant itself it’s classy and the decoration lovely. What can I say about our waiter Remi, he was absolutely brilliant, welcoming, attentive, polite, caring, a real asset to the restaurant. I love to talk and I rather monopolised him but he was to patient and happy to answer all my questions and was so open. Special mention to Alex too, thank you both for being so lovely to me and my husband. Karen you run a great restaurant and should be so proud. See you again, Lisa and Stew

Best London Restaurants You Need To Add To Your Bucket List Immediately

We're just weeks away from outdoor hospitality finally re-opening (we've got a little longer to wait for indoor hospitality), and we can't even begin to explain how excited we are to reacquaint ourselves with some of the UK's best restaurants.

But, we have to be honest. We're particularly looking forward to London's culinary offering.

(Sorry, we may be a little bias. ).

A melting pot of wonderful cultures, London houses some of the very best restaurants in the country. With everything from classic British seafood restaurants, to stunning Spanish tapas bars, it really is the place to be.

So, if you're looking for the ultimate London restaurants, take a look at some of our top picks for 2021.

The Chinese tasting menu here is spellbindingly good with dishes including fermented sea bass and smoked duck. A. Wong's reputation as one of, if not the best, Chinese restaurant in London is a worthy accolade.

The BAO empire is taking over London, and its original Soho brand still sees a queue of hungry diners waiting patiently for seats to free. You'll find it hard to turn down the lamb shoulder bao, alongside Taiwanese fried chicken. You can't leave without finishing your meal off with Fried Horlicks Ice Cream.

53 Lexington Street, W1F 9AS

Serving hungry diners for over a century, Bentley's cooks up seriously good seafood under the watchful eye of Chef Richard Corrigan. Start with half a dozen Loch Ryan oysters before diving into scallop ceviche, smoked salmon on potato pancakes or smoked eel. For mains, you'll find it hard to beat the stunning fish pie.

11-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG

If you're after classic French food at its finest, you CANNOT go wrong with Bob Bob Cité, the shiny sister version of Soho gem Bob Bob Ricard. Cosy up in one of the many booths and dine on everything from steak tartare, to whole baby French chicken, finishing off with creme brûlée flambeed at the table. Oh, and don't forget to 'press for Champagne' of course.

22 Leadenhall St, EC3V 4AB

Brat deserves all the recognition it gets, simple food at its FINEST. From chopped egg salad, to crab and corn porridge, the star of the show is undeniably the grilled whole turbot to share (order it with smoked potatoes and roasted greens).

4 Redchurch Street, E1 6JL

This Champagne bar in Fitzrovia, has some amazing fizz from sommelier Sandia Chang - plus a menu that includes American hot dogs and hand-selected cheeses and caviar. Count us in.

70 Charlotte Street, W1T 4QG

Clever cooking, crowd-pleasing food and a relaxed atmosphere makes Cora Pearl a Covent Garden gem. We love the decadent ham and cheese toastie, followed by the presa ibérico - not forgetting the soft, steaming side dish of chips.

30 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8NA

Smyth's two-Michelin starred restaurant is in the heart of Notting Hill, and continues to receive accolade after accolade. The tasting menu includes dishes such as roasted monkfish, Isle of Mull scallop tartare and braised lamb with a sheep's milk yoghurt.

92 Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN

Chef Tom Brown's first restaurant opened to a lot of buzz and continues to draw in the punters thanks to his seasonal, seafood dishes. One of the restaurant's most Instagrammed dish is the grilled oysters with seaweed hot sauce, and we promise you, it won't disappoint.

3 Prince Edward Road, E9 5LX

This is without a doubt a Mayfair institution, and one of the oldest pubs in the UK. The pub aside, the menu is fantastic, specialising in dry-aged, grass-fed beef.

Gloria exploded onto the London restaurant scene with the decadence and frills you'd expect from an Italian trattoria. Expect Italian classics including rabbit stuffed ravioli, Neapolitan pizza and out-of-this-world negronis.

54-56 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3QR

Famous for its Pie Room, fans of pastry-encased food will love HDR's offering from traditional steak and kidney pudding to curried mutton shoulder pie with mango salsa. If you fancy something a little lighter, we love the Dover sole with brown butter.

252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN

The iconic deli is a London institution, so it makes sense that their Soho restaurant is a much loved staple on the London food scene. Grab yourself an Aperol Spritz and enjoy antipasti and sharing bowls of pasta. Our favourites are the aubergine polpette, slow cooked veal ragu wrapped in al dente pappardelle and the ricotta and herb gnudi.

The sister restaurant of Moro, Morito wouldn't look out of place in the back streets of a small Spanish town. Tapas and mezze combine here with dishes such as salt cod croquetas, sitting alongside cuttlefish kofte with courgette salad.

32 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE

Probably my favourite wine bar in London, Noble Rot also serves up some incredibly good food. Eat dishes like roast Yorkshire partridge, and smoked Devonshire eel with a glass or two from their extensive wine menu.

51 Lambs Conduit Street, WC1N 3NB

Pidgin serves a weekly changing tasting menu focused around four central courses. They pride themselves on their uniqueness, and in over three years they've yet to repeat a single dish.

QCH describes itself as modern, innovative cooking using the finest British ingredients. Hence the. name, go for the chop or steak on offer.

88-94 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3EA

Split into three areas &ndash The Counter, the bar and the El Asador - each offers a different taste and experience of Spanish cuisine. Sit up at the counter for smaller tapas dishes served with gorgeously sour Txakoli wine, or feast on whole suckling pig upstairs.

35-37 Heddon Street, W1B 4BR

Formerly of Ottolenghi's Nopi, Ramael Scully's first solo restaurant is an explosion of flavours. A range of ingredients is used from homemade spices, pickles and preserves through to oils, animal fats, dairy and sprouts.

4 St. James's Market, SW1Y 4AH

Inside a shipping container of South London's trendy Pop Brixton, Smoke & Salt is all about modern small plates created using British ingredients and the ancient techniques of smoking, curing and preserving.

49 Brixton Station Road,​ SW9 8PQ

A London institution, St. John is loved by so many, drawn in not by its whitewashed, simple decor, but by the FOOD. Roast bone marrow on toast, rabbit and trotter pie, ginger loaf and butterscotch sauce.

Enjoy food from Brixton Prison’s Clink kitchen at home

Brixton is currently a resettlement prison – where inmates receive training including painting and decorating and scaffolding as well as working in the Clink Restaurant and Bad Boys Bakery

The Clink Training Restaurant which operates from inside Brixton prison, tomorrow (16 July) launches [email protected] for customers.

It will deliver ready-to-cook meals to homes within a five-mile radius of HMP Brixton – and that includes Mayfair – offering a range of dishes via a new online ordering service.

Starting tomorrow orders can be placed for deliveries each week on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 10am and 5pm with a two-hour delivery slot confirmed on the day.

Starters, mains, sides and desserts are all available, alongside soft drinks and a retail line including Clink aprons, tea towels and cookbooks.

Orders must be for a minimum £35 spend, which includes personal delivery in a refrigerated van from The Clink team.

Jerk chicken, rice and coleslaw Summer crumble with creme anglaise. Food pictures: Paul Griffiths

Part 2: British Prison Cuisine Today

Modern man requires around 2,500 calories each day to maintain body weight, women require slightly less. In the prisons of the 1800's, a prisoner was lucky to obtain 500 calories per day without any opportunity to increase his intake. Overcrowding – three to a cell built for one and hard labour, soon consumed what little energy the prisoner had. Poor health, body lice and unsanitary conditions all led to the onset of jail fever – epidemic typhus.

Today, as well as obtaining a balanced and healthy prison diet, a prisoner can supplement his diet from the prison shop. Many prisoners are housed in single cells or dormitories and the overcrowding problems of the 1800's no longer exist in our modern prisons. Modern health care programmes, physical fitness programmes and modern sanitary conditions have all been introduced in recent years.

In the UK, a prison catering manager has about £1.87 ($4) to provide food for each inmate every day. Young offender institutions are allowed double this amount at £3.81 ($8) per day. The modern prison service of today has placed an emphasis on rehabilitation, although how successful this has been is debatable. Part of the rehabilitation process is to teach prisoners how to eat healthily and look after themselves on release. For the prison service's part, new dietary regulations have been introduced in recent years which avoid the onset of health problems which ultimately reflect in the prisons health care budget. Long term prisoners are particularly at risk by poor diet and poor health care regimes. Diabetes, stroke and obesity-related illnesses are of particular concern.

Special diets are catered for now, and include Muslim, kosher, Caribbean, diabetic and other medical diets are also provided. Catering managers are now specially trained to prepare these special diets.

In many of the establishments I worked in, we even had Muslim and Jewish prisoners working in the kitchen to ensure that the food was cooked and prepared in the appropriate way. For the feast of Eid, the local mosques would deliver specially prepared food as a gift for Muslim prisoners. Likewise, the rabbi would arrange for kosher food to be delivered whenever Jewish feast days were celebrated. This would never have happened fifty years ago. It is also curios to note, the number of prisoners who convert to Islam when Ramadan is approaching.

So how have the diets and menus changed over the years. Health and nutrition remain a high priority in today's prison kitchen. There has been a vast reduction in fried foods over recent years. Chips with everything no longer applies. An increase in fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain products and an increase in fish products, including oily fish have been introduced into prisons not only in Britain but in European and American prison establishments as well.

One of the best fed prisons in the world is in Italy, where prisoners work to produce organic fruit and vegetables, including olive oil. The prison has its own state of the art food production areas for manufacturing wine and orchard management. The whole operation is supervised by a professional management team. The prisoners benefit by eating all their own home grown food and are even allowed a small wine allowance to help reduce cholesterol levels and may even increase the ability to prevent some forms of cancer. Now, is that progress or what?

There seems to be some confusion as to what exactly prison food entails. As far as the general public is concerned, some of them still believe that gruel, bread and water is still the main prison diet. There are still many more who say that it should be.

They could not be further from the fact. As we have already stated, vast improvements have already been made to the prison diet. In most prisons in England and Wales, the supply of catering facilities has been privatised. Prisoners now have a choice which they can preselect on a weekly basis, usually with a choice of three or more main courses. The Christmas menus have improved immensely over the years and now provide prisoners with a much better Christmas dinner than they ever would eat outside prison. In many of the lower security prisons, local pensioners are invited into the prison to eat Christmas dinner with the inmates. After all, prisoners are still human beings and many take great pains to ensure that 'granny' and 'granddad' have a nice Christmas dinner.

So how might a modern prison menu look? First, the breakfast menu. In all English prisons each prisoner receives a breakfast pack which is issued the evening before for use the next morning. This will include a breakfast cereal, milk, tea bags, coffee whitener, sugar, brown or white bread, jam and margarine or butter type spread. They will also receive a weekly allowance of teabags and sugar to make themselves a cup of tea whenever they want to. Each cell will have its own kettle, or at least a boiler on each landing for the use of all prisoners. The daily issue will also include special packs for vegans, vegetarians and various religious groups.

For the midday and evening meals, nearly every prison now uses a pre-select system where a list of different meals are displayed for each day and every prisoner can order whatever meal he prefers. There are usually five or six alternatives to choose from. Fresh vegetables and fruit are served separately when each meal is collected.

The following is just a sample obtained from the London prisons where the pre-select system has successfully been in operation for nearly ten years:

Midday Meal:
Vegetarian Pasta Bake
Chicken & Mushroom pie
Halal Jamaican Beef Patty
Corned beef & Pickle Roll
Jacket Potato & Coleslaw

Evening Meal:
Vegetable supreme
Chicken Supreme
Halal Chicken Curry
Grilled Gammon
Pork pie salad

Midday Meal:
Vegetable Pancake roll
Breaded Fish
Cheese & Beano Grill
Cheese & Tomato Roll
Jacket Potato & Tuna

Evening Meal:
Bean & Vegetable curry
Chicken Chasseur
Halal Beef Casserole
Fish in Parsley Sauce
Vegetable Quiche Salad

Midday Meal:
Vegetarian Sausage & Egg
Bacon, Sausage & Egg
Halal Sausage & Egg
Turkey Salad Roll
Jacket Potato and Curried Beans

Evening Meal:
Soya Lasagne
Minced Beef Lasagne
Halal Beef Italienne
Rice & Bean Stuffed Pepper Salad
Cheese Salad

The pre-select system has progressed a long way since its introduction. Prisoners now have the opportunity to select from a range of choices. In the early days if you were not a registered vegetarian, you could not have a vegetarian meal. If you were not a Muslim, you couldn’t select a halal dish. Now, things have changed Prisoners can select whatever dish they prefer. They may eat vegetarian one day, halal the next. Its their choice. In general, all prisons have now attempted to embrace the Balance of Good Health model (Food Standards Agency 2001) and are providing a nutritionally balanced, and healthy diet.

We have progressed a long way from the days of bread and water and a cup of gruel. Prisoners are not dying of typhus and malnutrition any more and prisons are much more comfortable and healthy paces to work in – both for prisoners and staff.

What will be the next phase? Will we see the introduction of self catering for prisoners? Each prison having its own supermarket. All prisons have there own version of the 'corner shop' where they can purchase food supplements and little luxuries to make life more bearable. It is not too much of a step to provide a supermarket and the means for prisoners to prepare their own food. Most of the catering facilities and prison shops are already privatised. I am sure that ASDA or Sainsbury's or Walmart would jump at the chance of having an in-prison store with a captive clientèle of nearly 2000 every day.

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