We went to Dans Le Noir (near Farringdon Station in London) to celebrate Anthony’s brother’s birthday.
Dans Le Noir (as the name would suggest) is a dining experience in the darkness. According to the website, the experience is meant to help us re-evaluate our perception of taste and smell.
We had some Prosecco in the bar area which is thankfully in the light at the front of the restaurant. The staff were so lovely and explained the whole process, asked for any allergies or dislikes and answered any questions. As part of the experience is not knowing what you are eating, there is no menu as such but you are allowed to pick a category so you can either have the meat, fish, vegetarian or the surprise menu. I chose the surprise menu so I had absolutely no idea what I was going to get.
You can’t take any bags or coats in to the restaurant as it would obviously be a tripping hazard so we put them all in the lockers provided as well as phones and watches to prevent them giving off any light.
We were introduced to Ghow, our waiter for the evening, near the entrance to the restaurant. The waiters at Dans Le Noir are all blind and so the blind staff are able to introduce us to their world and guide us where to go. We had to hold on to each other’s shoulders and were guided through a curtain and to our table. I have never experienced that level of darkness in my life, there is not a speck of light in the room as everything is blocked out, I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. It is the strangest experience and initially it is very unsettling and disorientating.
I was surprised to realise that we had to pour our glasses of water and wine..in the pitch black. The trick is to put your finger in the glass so that you know when you are nearing the top of the glass but those first few seconds when you hear water coming out but can’t feel the water in the glass are a bit nerve wracking.
Eating was equally difficult. I tried to eat the starter with my hands as I struggled with the cutlery in the dark, although I regretted this once I discovered that there was some kind of sauce on the plate! The food was delicious but I genuinely had no idea what it was! I had imagined that my tastebuds would be more perceptive with the loss of sight but actually it was really difficult to identify anything without any visual cues. So much so that what I thought was a fish cake turned out to be a chicken and chorizo croquette!
The main was split into 3 sections of the plate. I used my cutlery this time after the sauce incident with the starter but so many times I brought my fork to my mouth and realised there was nothing on it, and other times thought I had only a mouthful but actually had a whole slab of meat!
I was surprised at how comfortable I felt in the dark, although eating was difficult throughout, the unsettled feeling passed very quickly and I really enjoyed the experience. It felt surprisingly relaxing to eat a meal without anyone seeing and I had the added bonus of not having to re-apply my lipstick between courses like I normally do!
Experiencing blindness, albeit for a very short space of time and in an environment in which everyone is in the same boat, made me appreciate the value of sight that bit more. I had never thought about how difficult such small tasks such as pouring water would be and how disorientating entering a new environment must be.
I would definitely recommend Dans Le Noir to anyone in London, the food is lovely but the whole experience is so different and enlightening (slightly ironic).
We got the train back and had birthday cake at home, this time in the light!