Yes this is all possible at the Pollsmoor Maximum Securtiy Prison located approximately 25km outside Cape Town. Although this probably isn’t the first place that pops into your mind to have breakfast or lunch as it holds some of South Africa’s most dangerous criminals, it really is a great experience.
When driving up there the first thing you get asked by the security guards is if you have any firearms with you, a question you normally wouldn’t hear, but which is a standard procedure at this place. After checking the luggage boot of our car, we could drive through without problems. After you enter the gate, it is a 5min drive through the complex to the restaurant, and in the meantime you pass by different watch towers, and barbed wire fencing around the buildings, which I must admit is a bit intimidating.
The restaurant is called ‘Idlanathi’ which means ‘eat with us’ and it is also known by its nickname ‘the mess’. Here your food is prepared and served by low security prisoners while under strict surveillance of prison guards. The menu varies from sandwiches, fries, grills and traditional meals in the canteen-like restaurant, and do not forget about the daily specials such as curries, stews, lasagne and boboti. The most expensive item on the menu is approximately R60, so definitely budget-proof.
And while you are there, maybe even ask your waiter what he’s in for if you dare, or they might actually tell you themselves. Our waiter told us he would be released from prison in 3 weeks after 18 years for shooting his brother’s murderer. He was extremely happy that his time at Pollsmoor was almost over, but after 18 years behind bars it must be weird walking around in a world completely different than the one you left behind 18 years ago.
But all I can say is that the food was great, we didn’t had to wait long, our waiter was kind, and this is also a way for the prisoners to get some work experience and acquire different skills that could help them in the outside world. Definitely an experience I would recommend for everybody.
Pollsmoor Prison Restaurant,
021 700 1270
Opening hours 07:30 – 14:00.
Breakfast R16-R25. Sandwiches R6-R19. Mains R18-R60. No desserts. No tipping allowed.
Image courtesy of Spill Magazine