We were greeted by a tall ‘prison guard’, yelling out orders with a Southern drawl. ‘Any contraband will be confiscated’ I discreetly slipped my small bottle of Conkers Gin into the belt of my trousers whilst I slipped into my uniform for the night; a bright orange jumpsuit branded with the Alcotraz logo. Mug shots were taken and we were then hustled through into our cells. ‘What did you do to get in here’ one prison guard whispered. Nervous giggles ensued but the guards never once broke character.
Having never been inside a real prison, I can only go by the likes of movies and documentaries I’ve watched, but the interior of Alcotraz London felt authentically real. Steel bars separated the cells, which were kitted out with wooden benches and wire wool blankets. Even the visiting boxes separating ‘inmates’ from the bar had the old-fashioned phone receivers on the side, just like they have in the movies.
Whilst sitting down, a barman (dressed as an inmate) smuggled away our alcohol and returned with a tray of delicious cocktails. If this is what prison life is like, then count me in! A warden circled the cells, providing bible readings and words of wisdom. We were told there was hope for redemption and that the Lord would forgive those who sinned. If you looked like you were having too much fun, you would be selected for a bible reading or a lecture on being a good citizen.
Though I never discovered what was down there, some inmates were shipped off to the hold for ‘bad behaviour’. We heard whipping noises and muffled screams before the aforementioned inmates were returned to their cells.
Our first cocktail was a delicious Gin concoction with rhubarb. The barman spent a little time asking about our preferences and taste for cocktails and then produced something for each of us. The second round was an equally delicious gin, apple and elderflower drink. All the cocktails were served in tin cans for that authentic prison touch.
Snacks of mixed nuts were served in Altoid tins and there were letters and old photos stuck on the walls. The soundtrack created an eerie atmosphere with the sound of loud clinks interjecting every now and again.
The cocktails were delicious and the fit out of the prison was brilliant but the ‘prison wardens’ stole the show. They made the experience fun, authentic and constantly entertaining.
At the end of the night we were dispatched back into what they referred to as the ‘minimum security prison’. We removed the jumpsuits and put our jackets back on to return to normality. An evening at Alcotraz London will be the most fun you have in a long time. Take a bottle of your favourite spirit along with your sense of humour and you’re bound to have a ball.
Tickets are £30 per head, which includes entrance to the prison and four cocktails.
212 Brick Lane