Whoever thought lunch-behind-bars could be so good? Before my visit to The Clink, the phrase ‘prison food’ brought to mind visions of mushy, boiled cafeteria chow. But thanks to this surprising new prison charity project, my preconceptions have been shattered.
The Clink serves up a wonderful lunch experience by any standard; all of it cooked and served by the inmates of Cardiff prison. The idea is to tackle the problem of re-offending as a startling 49% of prisoners released in the UK re-offending within a year. The charity provides a fantastic opportunity for lower-level inmates to gain vital experience and qualifications to lessen their chances of re-entering prison. Select inmates are trained in food preparation, cleaning and food service and work with the aim to find full-time employment within the hospitality sector upon their release. The Clink, nestled in Cardiff’s city centre, is one of three British establishments supporting this prison initiative – the other two are in Surrey and Brixton.
To start; a generous square of a subtly spiced ham hock terrine with crisp ciabatta, accompanied by an equally moreish serving of piccalilli and apple gels. which added a nice amount of acidity. Aside from the small piece of star anise in the terrine that I crunched into – it was an extremely satisfying starter which I feel could only be improved by scrapping the limp side salad.
I opted for the lamb which was excellently cooked with a deep lamb and succulent flavour. The best thing on the plate was the garlic and potato rosti which added a welcomed sweetness to the dish. The creamy savoy cabbage and various vegetable purees led to the dish being rich but not overly so – we really enjoyed this one.
Then came the finale of a trio of rhubarb desserts. Making up the trio was a luscious rhubarb-stewed crème brûlée, a rice pudding with deep fried rhubarb strips and a scoop of rhubarb ice-cream with caramel. The texture and flavour of the rice pudding and the crème brûlée was spot on. However we felt let down by the lack of rhubarb flavour in the ice-cream.
I also tried of the the chocolate tart and deduced that it was everything you could have wanted from a chocolate tart; rich and silky chocolate, crisp pastry and glossy on top. The cherry coulis had a beautiful sheen and sharpness that worked well with the richness and bitterness of the chocolate. But once more however, the ice-cream failed to deliver as it offered no distinct pistachio flavour.
The food was really quite tasty and despite the unique circumstance; the ambiance was relaxed, the waitstaff were helpful and the restaurant was a pleasant place to spend a long lunch. Three courses and a soft drink came to less than £30 which is great value for money when considering the quality of the food. As well being a worthwhile cause the restaurant produced some of the best food I have eaten in Cardiff without breaking the bank.