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Dining Secretly in Sudbury Open Prison

Carrier bag from Sudbury open prison

John bought a bird feeder which came in this bag

Having written recently about the fantastic food at Fischer’s I though perhaps I would redress the balance slightly and let you know about a very nice lunch we had recently at the Secret Diner, in Sudbury (Derbyshire) Open Prison.

Just for your interest, Sudbury is a Category D open prison for males which I gather means it will usually be for non violent short term or prisoners at the end of a long sentence. Prisoners can wander freely but have to show up for roll calls etc; we do quite often hear of prisoners absconding from Sudbury, and whilst that might be foolish, it can’t be very difficult to do. When we visited, it did look as if there was a fence of sorts, but nothing too off-putting if you were determined to get out.

Anyway, the prison has quite recently opened a restaurant, in the grounds but just outside the fence. The building is an old Nissan hut, but clean and attractively decorated. The Diner doubles as a staff canteen and is only open from 11.30am to 1pm on weekdays. It’s probably advisable to ring to book – the number is 01283 584000 and the postcode for Satnavs is DE6 5HW.

Lunching at the Secret Diner

The very sound idea behind the Secret Diner is that it provides an excellent opportunity for prisoners, who can put the training and experience they receive to good use when they get out. I couldn’t tell who were prisoners and who were staff, but it didn’t seem to matter in the slightest.

You won’t be surprised to hear it is not exactly fine dining; one sits at formica tables and queues up to be served but the food was more than acceptable, very plentiful, with lots of choice and all extremely reasonably priced. We went with a crowd of Parwich friends and we all thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the occasion. We were almost embarrassed it was so cheap, and although the staff were extremely pleasant, we weren’t allowed to leave a tip although it was suggested that if we wished we could donate to some charities they support, including the local branch of Riding for the Disabled, which we were all glad to do. We had a three-course meal, with coffee and it came to well under £10 each.

After lunch several of us visited their Farm Shop, where they sell vegetables etc that the prisoners grow, and things they have made like bird feeders and nesting boxes. I was very taken by the fact that there also several dozen pairs of identical black men’s size 8 shoes, being sold for £2.50 each! No other sizes, no other colours… That was an unanswered mystery and if anyone can ever solve it for me I shall be grateful.

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