The Jailhouse Rocked

According to Wikipedia, “The Clink” was a notorious prison in Southwark, England which functioned from the 12th century until 1780 either deriving its name from or bestowing it on the local manor, the Clink Liberty (see also the Liberty of the Clink). The manor and prison were owned by the Bishop of Winchester and situated next to his residence at Winchester Palace.

Flash forward 228 years and you get
Clink in the Liberty Hotel, former location of the Charles Street Jailhouse. The Charles Street Jail was built in 1851 and remained a functioning prison until it’s closure Memorial Day weekend, 1990. In 1973, the prisoners revolted over the conditions of the jail and the jail was declared unfit and in violation of the prisoners constitutional rights. It took 17 years for the last of the prisoners to finally be moved.

Massachusetts General Hospital acquired the property in 1991 and it took another 10 years for a viable plan to be approved for the historic space — with renovations completed in 2007, The Liberty Hotel opened it’s doors.

I had the pleasure of spending a few hours in the Clink myself last night… and I must say, it lives up to it’s hype.

You walk through the front doors into a beautiful atrium, framed by exposed bricks, soaring windows and the old prison catwalks. Pretty people abound, amazing architecture and classical lines all enhance the contemporary theme of this space.

The hotel has several eateries and bars… Scampo (which means “escape” in Italian), under the direction of Lydia Shire, serves up classic Italian fare on the first floor. Alibi, also on the first floor, is a dungeon-like cocktail bar and club serving up drinks and apps and offering a coveted outdoor patio space for the happy hour set. And then Clink, on the second floor — with it’s sit-down dining inside the restaurant and a very popular bar (with additional tables, chairs and benches) in the atrium.

My girlfriend and I were both anxious to give Clink a try. We started our night with some cocktails; I had the Caramelized Lime CaipirinhaCachaça with muddled mint, lime and club soda ($14) and “S” had a Classical Twist — Vodka seasoned black pepper and muddled cucumber ($14). A little pricey for my taste, but the drinks were pretty good and fairly strong. I guess if you are going to dine in a former prison you should expect nothing less than being ripped off.

Clink’s menu is divided into a several categories: Snacks to Share, Artisan Cheeses, Charcuterie, Starters and Mains. We both decided to stick with two smaller dishes each, rather than gorging ourselves with main courses.

I started with a “snack to share” — the Tuna Tartare with citrus, jalapeno and fried yucca chips ($12). “S” went with a “starter” — the Chilled Yellow Tomato Soup with smoked yogurt and extra virgin olive oil ($9).

The tuna was delicious. Seasoned with just the right amount of salt and enhanced with the acidity of the lime juice. The yucca chips added a nice texture component to the meal. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though, I have to admit I didn’t detect any jalapeno spice.

The soup was phenomenal. Wherever they get their tomatoes from this time of year, I want to go! The tomatoes tasted like homegrown August tomatoes. They obviously have a really good supplier. The most amazing component of the dish though, was the smoked yogurt.

When the soup arrived, it looked like it had small balls of fresh mozzarella in it. In reality, these were dollops of smoked yogurt, encased in a very thin sort of membrane. Almost like the consistency of an egg yolk (if you’ve ever separated an egg using your hands before). When you popped one of these babies into your mouth, the membrane immediately dissolved and your mouth became filled with the savory, smokey and silky flavor and texture of the yogurt.

Unbelievable! I immediately flagged our server over and asked him how these were made. He said that they carefully spoon the yogurt into an ‘alkaline’ solution, which creates the neat little packages. This dish is a MUST try.

For my main course, I opted for another “starter”… the Seared Sea Scallops, with English pea puree, leeks and a truffle nage ($14). “S” did the same thing, ordering the Handcut Pappardelle, with a lamb ragu and Parmesan reggiano ($18).

The scallops were sweet, tender and cooked perfectly. The pea puree was fresh and added an additionally sweetness that paired well with the salty butter sauce. Everything was delicious in this dish… though, once again, I wasn’t tasting any truffle. Still very good none the less.

The pappardelle was very good as well. “S” said it tasted delicious with the fresh grated Parmesan cheese and tender lamb. Overall, two very good dishes.

We finally left the dining room around 10:30pm and walked out to a JAMMED lobby bar. This is clearly the happening place on Thursday nights. I felt very under dressed in jeans, platforms and a T. We popped our head into Alibi on the way out, and it was packed as well… both inside and out. One other cool addition is that the walls of alibi are covered with vintage snapshots of famous peoples mug shots. Frank Sinatra hangs on the wall right as you walk in…

I will definitely be going back to this place. I want to try a few more of the dishes and I definitely want to hit up the bar scene. This is a great new addition to both Boston’s restaurant scene and it’s nightlife. Well worth a visit… and possibly even an overnight!

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