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Enjoy a taste of redemption at this incredible Styal restaurant

Discover Styal's The Clink, where culinary excellence meets social rehabilitation in a truly transformative dining experience
The Clink

Nestled amidst the serene landscapes of Styal lies an absolute gem of a restaurant, The Clink.

It has a unique twist — all the food is prepared by inmates of HMP Styal – learning the ins and outs of working in a fine dining restaurant and preparing for a life outside of prison.

Welcome to The Clink!

In the beautiful village of Styal, set in a gorgeous refurbished church, a remarkable journey unfolds—one of rehabilitation, skill-building, and societal reintegration.

We went down to see what it was all about.

The Clink, Styal

The Clink
A beautifully renovated church

Gail, the General Manager of The Clink Restaurant in Styal, welcomed us warmly and told us all about the Clink and the rehabilitation project they have underway.

The Clink isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a transformative space where offenders get a second chance at life through learning how to cook and work in the bustling kitchen environment of a fine dining establishment.

“Our women come from within the prison system and transition to our open house, Bollenwood, just across the car park,” Gail explains.

Bollenwood accommodates about 20 to 23 women, some of whom work at the restaurant while others are sent out to the community.

“They work with us on a day-release basis, and we’re proud to provide them with a living wage,” Gail continued.

This financial support allows them to save for their release, providing a crucial safety net as they reintegrate into society.

Support workers like Rachel and Evie are instrumental in this process.

“They help the women gain qualifications, primarily NVQs at Level Two, in professional cookery and food and beverage service.

“Our goal is to enhance their employability and assist them in finding jobs either during their incarceration or upon release.”

But the support doesn’t stop there.

“We help them with job placements, interview preparation, and even provide appropriate attire through partnerships with clothing companies.”

“After they secure employment, we continue to support them for a year, helping with housing, childcare, and benefits applications to prevent recidivism.”

The Clink Project Charity

The Clink
Beautiful food with a great cause

The Clink Project Charity, founded by Lady Edwina Grosvenor, Finlay Scott and Kevin McGrath MBE over a decade ago, has been pivotal in reducing reoffending rates and providing opportunities for societal reintegration.

“Our impact extends beyond the restaurant; we also run kitchen projects across 33 prisons nationwide, providing inmates with valuable skills and qualifications.”

Witnessing the positive impact firsthand is immensely rewarding for Gail and her team.

“Seeing these women secure employment and successfully reintegrate into society is incredibly fulfilling.

“Our support doesn’t end with employment; we continue to assist them with various aspects of their lives to ensure their successful reintegration.”

The restaurant’s menu is nice and varied to keep students trained in different disciplines, like desserts, meats and other important aspects of creating top-class food.

“We cover a variety of techniques and ingredients to provide a well-rounded training experience.

“Our menus may vary slightly between locations to cater to clientele preferences, and we also offer special menus for Sunday lunches and afternoon tea.”

So what about the menus?

The Clink Restaurant at HMP Styal is frequently in the top 10 restaurants in Wilmslow on TripAdvisor and in 2017 all of our restaurants held the number 1 spot for six months.

And for good reason.

The Clink food offer is fantastic locally sourced ingredients, always seasonable and truly high-end stuff.

The Clink
Pork belly and black pudding

The main courses (available from 12-2 pm Monday – Saturday) range from a delightful pork belly, crispy black pudding, colcannon mash, cider and prune (£16.50) to a sukkah crushed pomegranate & chilli squash, burnt onion puree, shallots, charred tender stem (£15.50).

Both dishes would not be out of place in some of Manchester’s high-end restaurants and with the beautiful settings of a re-conditioned church, you can’t miss.

They also have a wonderful Sunday lunch offering where you can pick from the roast rump of beef, slow roast pork belly, charred black garlic and herb chicken or lentil, chickpea and sweet potato loaf with caramelised shallots, with all the trimmings, too.

Feeling something a bit sweeter? The Clink is also offering a sweet afternoon tea, with a beautiful selection of sandwiches, scones, and cakes to make sure you leave fully satisfied.

The Clink
Dave (L) and Portia (R)

The Kitchen is run by the dynamic duo of Portia (Head Chef) and Dave (Sous Chef).

Portia is not just a chef but a mentor, guiding her kitchen team through the intricacies of kitchen artistry and personal growth.

As Head Chef and Assessor Trainer, Portia’s responsibilities extend far beyond the confines of the kitchen.

She meticulously plans menus, ensuring a diverse array of dishes that showcase incredible local produce and culinary passion.

Collaborating with her sous chefs, Dave and others, Portia crafts menus that not only tantalise the taste buds but also tell stories of resilience and hope.

She said: “I’ve seen a lot of the women leave and they’re so proud.

“One sent some cake that they made yesterday. They were already working in another place and just to show that I’m still doing this they sent a message to say I’m so happy that I stuck it through and this is where I am right now.”

Training kitchen staff at The Clink isn’t just about honing skills; it’s about nurturing potential and instilling confidence.

Portia acknowledges the challenges her team faces, especially as many are transitioning from vastly different environments.

Yet, she finds joy in their eagerness to learn and grow, transforming initial apprehensions into triumphs.

Portia continued: “A lot of these young ladies come in and grow into the role and develop.

“It’s amazing when you see students who at the beginning are like, I just cannot do this.

“They think it’s too stressful.

“Sometimes we’re quite busy and it can get quite hectic, 70 or more covers.

“We’ve had some of the chefs walk out – but they’ve come back in.

“You just give them that five minutes outside and you say, look, you can do this.

“And in the end, they’re proud when they see that they’ve pushed through.

“Sometimes we have one-to-one with them and say, Look, do it for you, your child or your daughter.

“You don’t want to give up on this.

“And we’ve seen that. I’ve seen a lot of, in the five years, I’ve seen a lot of the women leave and they are rightly very proud of what they have achieved here.

Beyond the kitchen, Portia witnesses profound transformations among her team members.  From initial self-doubt to eventual pride in their accomplishments, she sees individuals blossom into confident chefs, ready to take on the life of a chef.

Their success stories, like the one who sent a cake from her new workplace as a testament to her journey, reaffirm the power of second chances.

For those considering a visit to The Clink, Portia extends a heartfelt invitation.

A beautiful selection of dishes

She emphasises not just the incredible awaiting patrons but also the stories of resilience and redemption woven into every dish.

With a commitment to seasonality, locality, and sustainability, The Clink offers more than just a dining experience—it’s a celebration of human resilience.

The chefs at The Clink

But what about the student chefs?

We sat down with three students in the program to talk about how it has made a big difference in their lives.

Among the apprentices shaping their futures, one student’s journey encapsulates the essence of this unique program.

Having spent nearly 11 months within the confines of the institution, the student reflects on her experience with enthusiasm.

“I’ve never done anything like this before in my life until obviously coming here,” she admits, highlighting the novelty of her venture into the world of the kitchen.

Transitioning from a novice to a proficient cook, she speaks eagerly about her progress.

“I’ve just done professional cookery, and I’m moving on to my Level 3 Apprenticeship,” she shares, eyes gleaming with determination.

Her journey is marked by newfound confidence and a passion for learning, evident in her excitement for each day’s discoveries.

“It’s nice that people are getting an opportunity to learn, something they can pick up when they get out.”

Beyond the cooking skills acquired, the student emphasises the invaluable support of the kitchen team.

“They’ve been really helpful, from the head chefs to the managers and even all the chefs that are learning.”

For another student, the journey began in October, diving headfirst into the Professional Cookery NVQ Level 2 program.

“I’ve only got four assessments left to do,” she beams, a testament to her dedication and progress in just four short months.

Across the kitchen, her companion reflects on a similar path, having embarked on her voyage at the end of November, starting with Level 1 and eagerly progressing to Level 2.

Their entry into the Kitchen may have been unexpected, but it’s a transition they both embraced wholeheartedly.

“I’ve loved it more than I thought I would,”one student admits, echoing the sentiment of newfound enthusiasm shared by many of their peers.

It’s their transformation within themselves that resonates most deeply.

“I had zero confidence when I came here, but now I’m just… loving it” they said,  with a smile that speaks volumes about the newfound sense of self-assurance fostered within The Clink’s supportive environment.

It’s an opportunity not just to learn new skills but to discover a whole new world of possibilities, where teamwork prevails and every challenge is met with determination and camaraderie.

And as they look towards the future, aspirations extend far beyond the prison walls.

With job interviews lined up and newfound skills in hand, they stand poised to embark on a journey of independence and success, armed with the invaluable lessons learned within The Clink’s kitchens.

Expanding awareness and drawing in more customers is a goal for The Clink, especially with potential expansion to open seven days a week.

Gail continued:  “We’ve recently started offering apprenticeships, with students progressing to level two and level three qualifications.

“The project provides valuable skills and opportunities for the women and students while offering customers great food and service.”

The private room at The Clink which is available for hire

Over the years, The Clink has witnessed numerous successes, and Gail remains hopeful for many more.

“For the women and students, this project has provided a platform to explore newfound passions they might not have discovered otherwise,” she reflects.

“Whether It’s gaining confidence in cooking or discovering a newfound passion, even small changes can have a profound impact on their lives and relationships” Gail concludes with pride.

The Clink isn’t just a restaurant; we’re empowering these ladies with skills, and excellence in the kitchen, transforming lives one meal at a time.

You can find out more about The Clink on their website by clicking here

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