[Styal, Cheshire] Clink

I’m going to stop saying “Ah, but you have to make allowances at Clink – it’s a training restaurant, not a proper one”. Well, it’s true that the team are all prisoners – but the standard of cooking and service is up there with the local bistro competition.

This time we hit it on the first day of the new spring menu – always a time when things can be shaky with any restaurant, but no worries here. The food was a delight.

There was a tomato and red pepper soup, which tasted of tomato and red pepper – and you can’t ask for more than that. The other starter was quite clever. A warm blue cheese soufflé sat in a bowl surrounded by a chilled pea “broth”. The contrasts of temperature, texture and flavours worked so well, so I forgive them for the soufflé collapsing somewhat.

For one main, megrim sole was a bang-on bit of fish cookery but something of a faff to eat due to its very bony nature. Accompaniments were as seasonal as you can get – crushed Jersey Royals, samphire and a spoonful of a tomato/onion/coriander salsa. The other plate featured another bit of perfect cookery – a pork chop cooked to no more than medium, so that it was still soft and juicy. There’s a cheffy smear or two of pommess puree, a nicely tart apple sauce, purple sprouting broccoli and griddled spring onions.

One dessert was a pretty much perfect seasonal plate of poached rhubarb, sweetened “just enough”. There’s a ball of a really good ginger sorbet. A few fairly pointless, and tasteless, strawberries and a scattering of crushed nuts complete the dish. Across the table, lemon tart was a good effort – crisp pastry and a very lemony filling. There’s ice cream and a couple of dabs of apricot puree – both of them working well with the tart.

Good lunch all round.

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I wish I could remember where I just read an article about how well prisoners who become cooks do when they get out of prison. I would have sent it to you, John.

The Clink charity is very supportive. There’s obviously the training and support while they are prisoners but they also work hard to secure jobs for them. Our server this time had been working in the restaurant sinc elast August and is due for release this coming August, so you would rightly argue that she’s got good experience. The charity also offers prisoners a mentor when they are released which seems a good addition to the statutory supervision they’ll also have from the probation service.

They claim a much lower rate of re-offending for those who have gone through the training, etc, to those who simply do their time and get released. Makes sense to me.

I’m not sure this is the original article I read, but I just came across this one today. https://www.tastingtable.com/dine/national/restaurants-formerly-incarcerated-drive-change?utm_medium=email&utm_source=TT&utm_campaign=Weekend&utm_content=Editorial

Thanks, June.

I used to work in the criminal justice system and I know that one of the major challenges for probation officers supervising prisoners after release from prison was helping them to find work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many employers don’t want to take them on.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold