From serving time to serving dinner: Brixton inmates run restaurant behind bars to help them go straight
Tables will be given by appointment and guests will be required to go through tough security checks before they can even enter the building.
But unlike London’s most exclusive restaurants, diners will be cooked for by inmates not renowned chefs.
Brixton is to house the capital’s first prison restaurant that is open to the public in order to educate inmates and help them get jobs in catering on release.
The three-storey, 100-seat restaurant, is set to open in February in the prison’s Regency Roundhouse, currently being used for administrative purposes. It is the third training restaurant run by The Clink Charity — the other two being in HMP High Down in Surrey and The Clink Cymru at HMP Cardiff.
The menu will be “predominantly British” — serving dishes such as pea and mint risotto, slow-cooked lamb and handmade ravioli — and will be on a three-week rotation.
Inmates will be selected to work at the restaurant based on their “passion” and sentence with the aim of equipping them with the skills to go straight into work after release.
As well as the restaurant, the building on Brixton Hill will also house rooms for business meetings and working lunches. Funded by support of the industry, charitable trusts and philanthropists, the charity, in partnership with Her Majesty’s Prison Service, aims to help reduce reoffending and change the public’s perception about prison and the opportunities to rehabilitate prisoners effectively.
It will follow The Clink’s Five Step Programme that has been successfully implemented at their award-winning restaurant in Surrey, educating prisoners and equipping them with the skills and tools to secure employment upon their release.
Chris Moore, chief executive of The Clink Charity, said Brixton is “the perfect site”.
He said: “HMP Brixton is undergoing a regeneration project and was looking for an organisation to work with to develop the building into an opportunity for rehabilitation.
“The central location lends itself to securing support from local businesses and members of the public, providing they are committed to The Clink’s vision and once the necessary security checks have been processed, providing real-life experience for those prisoners who make it through the selection process to join the programme.”
Edmond Tullett, governor at HMP Brixton added: “The restaurant will provide an unforgettable experience for customers and an unrivalled opportunity for prisoners to acquire marketable skills that will lead to local jobs and provide a pathway to a better life.” It follows a project last year by Gordon Ramsey who helped Brixton inmates set up the Bad Boys Bakery within the prison as part of a television series.
The Government hopes the Clink project will bring down reoffending rates.
Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: “This is a great partnership, which gives offenders the chance to learn skills that can help them secure employment once they leave prison.
“We know reoffending rates are unacceptably high and it’s through projects like this that we can help them build a strong work ethic that will ultimately enable them to turn their backs on crime.”