By Olivia Botting
I write this as I emerge from my two-day food coma bestowed upon me by the delicious food at The Clink Restaurant, by Queen Street train station. This particular restaurant is a bit different to conventional eateries, in that you have to go through a small security check upon applying for a reservation (at least, that’s what it said on the website) and also the fact that it’s mostly run by prisoners from HMP Prescoed.
Yep, you read that right. The establishment employs 28 prisoners who work front-of-house and in the kitchen, and the aim of the restaurant, run by The Clink Charity, is to alleviate preconceptions about people who have been to prison, and to reduce reoffending rates. They do this by both giving the staff purpose – basically, they have a job, and they have the opportunity to gain qualifications in catering so they can be immediately hired once they’ve left the prison service. It’s pretty cool, actually.
Our waiter was lovely, and we had an interesting conversation with him about how it was to work in the restaurant. He said he went through years of therapy and rehabilitation to reach a stage where he could interact with people from outside the prison, and that he enjoyed working in the restaurant because he had something to work towards. The Clink Charity seems to be doing good all-round.
Now, onto the meal. As an overview, the food was phenomenal, and I fear I’m going to become repetitive because I can’t actually express how good it was. We booked in for a ‘gourmet’ evening meal, which comprised of four courses (and after-dinner coffee) chosen from a set menu. It was quite pricey, considering a student budget, but you pay in two installments – one for a deposit, paid with the reservation, and the second half with the meal. So really, it’s quite easy to manage. And believe me, it was so worth it.
The starter for me was the soup of the day – a cream of tomato soup which came presented with architectural bread shapes. Both of which I enjoyed thoroughly. I discovered later that the bread the restaurant serves is entirely homemade – impressive, considering I had about three different types on my plate. My boyfriend went for a pigeon breast, pine nut and orange salad, took one look at it and wolfed it down with a disturbingly smug look on his face. I’ve never seen the bloke eat so fast. Apparently, it was ‘lush’—evidently The Clink has his seal of approval.
The title of ‘highlight of the meal’ is very much tied between the latter two courses. I ordered ‘poached and roasted chicken, served with fondant potato, trio of root veg and thyme jus’, for which I paused for a moment to take a photo of when it arrived. It was presented like some form of modern art, and I hit a personal goal of self-control when I didn’t devour it in forty seconds. The dessert here is worthy of awards, however. I didn’t stop long enough to see what my boyfriend ordered, but I went for a saffron poached pear and made an ascent to a higher level of being. I’m not being dramatic, I think I blacked out in pear-induced bliss for roughly ten minutes as I made my way through that dessert. I could eat that pear forever.
Honestly, I truly recommend this restaurant. Admittedly, it’s a little flush for a student budget, but if you ever want to impress your other half’s parents with a fancy and fantastic meal, this is your place.
The Clink Cardiff, Knox Rd, Cardiff CF24 0UG
Image credit: twitter.com/theclinkcharity