‘Go to Jail’. ‘Go directly to jail’ and pass through a foreboding Victorian prison gate to get the best view of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast of Dorset.
Getting to the ‘Jailhouse Cafe’ at Portland in Dorset does certainly require a large leap of faith.
As you have to transit through a huge ‘Dickensian’ style stone entrance with massive iron gates and then a dark tunnel before you even get close.
Only then can you get to the welcoming cafe perched 500 feet above the Dorset coast.
“Many of our customers have told us that the imposing Portland stone edifice with numerous prison signs adorning it does make them think that to proceed further could mean getting detained or even jailed!” said General Manager of EXPIA, Jailhouse Cafe, Rachel Barton.
She added, “First timers do find it intimidating to drive or even to walk up to where we are located. However, once here the sweeping views from the garden speak for themselves as they look over Portland Harbour, Weymouth Bay, and the Jurassic coast.
A Leap Of Faith To Drive Through The Imposing Prison Gate
Including places like Ringstead Bay, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. Its possible to almost see to Swanage although St Aldehelms head just stops that view some 17 miles away to the east. Over 30 cruise ships visit the port every year and they make stunning sights too.
As well as the outstanding view point there is a more simple menu on offer with specials making an apperance too. The cafe also operates as a valuable training facility to get prisoners nearing completion of their sentences back gaining real work experience.
So far around 100 prisoners have taken advantage of the work and training opportunities. With some going onto run and own their own cafes and many also gaining work within the hospitality sector. All thanks to the staff team at the cafe.
The food choices are more on the simple side with hot sandwiches, wraps or the popular breakfast treat like ‘The Guvernors’ a bumper full English breakfast. Veggie option of course these days. Roast dinners, cream teas and cakes are popular for visitors as the day progresses.
However, Rachel has been in contact with s specialist supplier and soon will be introducing porridge!
Jail Cafe Jurassic View With Porridge On The Menu!
The English slang phrase “doing porridge” means to serve a prison sentence and the cafe that helps to get prisoners back into society also wants to move towards this healthy option too. Although this food and its connection to the popular TV comedy series called ‘Porridge’. Which is held deep within the British culture and will not go unnoticed with its tongue in cheek reference.
However, the story goes that inside the prison just across the road and around the country, ‘oats’ are restricted or possibly banned as they can be used to produce illicit alcohol.
The cafe is open to visitors 6 days a week and in the summer its 7days.
Worth bearing in mind that its clifftop location is literally at the centre of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. There is pretty well no better viewpoint along the whole heritage coast.
Taking that leap of faith does have its reward.
Apprehension at passing through the gated and traffic light controlled tunnel. However, it is perfectly legal.
You will proceed through leaving the more modern official entrance for The Verne Prison itself on your right. Driving past the dominating concrete walls and barbed wire of the Verne itself a Category C prison. This one houses many sex offenders. (Paul Gadd known as ‘Gary Glitter’ has been one of its infamous convicts and at the time writing he was still incarcerated there).
Supporting A Charity With Unrivaled Views Of World Heritage Coast
But carrying on further up the inclined slope to what is called the ‘golf ball’ radar tower, which you cannot fail to see and you are there!
However, the inmates that do come to work at the Jailhouse cafe actually come from another separate prison about a mile away still on Portland, called HMP Portland.
Learning catering and hospitality skills can give the prisoners a chance to work in that sector and prevent re-offending. If the trainees do stay clear of jail for 2 years then the cafe team regard that as a success.
The charity project is carried out in connection with the Ministry Of Justice. Governors at both prisons fully support the cafe and its work and are often customers too.
Fundraising is helped at the cafe by selling items made in the local prison workshops. Also, there are numerous branded tee shirts, sweat shirts, aprons, hats and bags. These popular gifts all help to boost income for the ongoing work.
Plus, jars of pickles and jams to take away as souvenirs will be joined by the photographs you will want to take from their excellent and spacious cliff top garden as a reminder of this unique Jurassic food stop!
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