Dans Le Noir

21 07 2013

Dans le noir

Last night I had one of the strangest and most exhilarating experiences of my life.

I visited “Dans Le Noir” in London with FFOMC and two good friends. I explained the concept briefly yesterday but to recap: the aim of this experience is to enhance your experience of food by removing the sense of sight. Diners eat a three course meal in total darkness and are served by blind waiters.

To add to this experience the menu is top secret.

We arrived for our sitting and were welcomed by one of the staff. We were asked to place any items that produced light including watches, lighters and mobile phones in a locker (free of charge). While I wouldn’t intentionally spoil the experience for anyone else but introducing light into this environment, I totally understand the need for caution to preserve the experience for others.

Our waiter then explained the concept of the restaurant and asked each of us to choose a theme for our menu: meat, vegetarian, fish or the chefs special. Most of our party opted for meat, but as I was feeling adventurous, I opted for the chefs special. Our host then asked us to specify how many courses we would have. Our friends decided to have a main course and desert; FFOMC wanted a starter and main, whereas I went the whole hog by deciding to indulge in all three courses – in for a penny, in for a pound. We did also have the opportunity to explain any dietary requirements or allergies we had.

Having selected our menu option and enjoying some mystery cocktails at the bar (although, despite my adventurous attitude towards the evening, I stuck with my usual red wine), we were presented with safety glasses to transfer our drinks into before going into the dining room itself.

We went into a corridor that separates the lit bar from the pitch black dining room. The corridor was very dimly lit with a red light and the door to the lit bar was closed to prevent any light seeping through. We stood in a straight line, one behind the other when we were introduced to our blind waiter Jack – who was an amazing host! We conga-lined our way into the pitch black restaurant. I don’t know what we were expecting but we all agreed that we have never been anywhere so dark in our whole lives. There was not a pin-prick of light anywhere and one of my friends said that his eyes actually hurt after some time because of this.

I can appreciate that this would not be for everyone. The girl we were with didn’t like it to start with especially as we had no sense of the space or the distance to the exit – the inability to simply leave if it became too much could be a barrier for some diners but my friend was glad that she stuck it out and ultimately enjoyed the experience.

Jack, our waiter, asked each of us in turn to give him our hands which he placed on the backs of our chairs and he explained how to navigate the table to find our cutlery, napkins and glasses. The jug of water we had requested for the table may have been a mistake but we made a good effort to fill our glasses in the darkness.

The atmosphere was not as expected. Our assumption that we could expect eerie silence and tentative whispering was not accurate and the restaurant was filled with the typical chatter and noise we would have expected anywhere else – the only difference was our inability to orientate ourselves and pin point the source of the noise.

Jack announced the arrival of each course and told us to sit still while plates of food were delivered over our right shoulders.

I don’t know if any of you have ever attempted to use a knife and fork to eat a meal you cannot see – IT’S BLOODY HARD! I made a brave attempt before giving up entirely and using my hands. This added to the experience in a strange way. Prodding my food; feeling its size, shape and texture and enjoying the smell before it made its awkward journey to my mouth reminded me of how young children first experience food. When our plates were taken away, I admitted to my fellow diners that I was embarrassed by this only to discover that FFOMC had instantly decided that chasing morsels of food round his pate with his knife and fork was a pointless endeavour and never made any attempt to do so.

The main and desert were much the same; with the four of us giggling our way through the most amazing food I have ever sampled and discussing the smell, texture, sweet and sharp flavours in much more detail than we normally would have done. Desert was the easiest course to navigate as it was served in a ramekin making it easier to employ the use of cutlery.

Jack was an entertaining and accomplished host – patiently explaining every step of the process and regaling us with witty banter and sharing the story of how he has been partially sighted his entire life until he became totally blind at the age of 26.

When we left the restaurant we went through the same conga line that had started the process but this time all singing the tune (a joke the poor staff no doubt endure on a regular basis).

We sat for a drink in the bar as we recovered our sight and our pupils returned to their normal size as we were shown the content our menus.

I had a fabulous time and enjoyed discovering the exotic dishes I sampled but I will not share the content of my amazing White Menu nor my friends Red Menu for fear of spoiling the experience for others. This would be totally inappropriate given the aims of this restaurant and the nature of the experience they offer. I might reveal what I ate last night in a future blog when the menu has been changed and published online by “Dans Le Noir” themselves.

The one thing I wish I had known in advance was that there was more than one type of meat on my plate.

If you plan to visit and want to get a flavour of what to expect, I would recommend visiting the following link: http://london.danslenoir.com/old-menus.en.html

This was a fantastic night out and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants to try something a little bit different – it truly is something you have to exp0erience to truly appreciate.

Thank you “Dans Le Noir” for a fantastic evening with AMAZING food and an ELECTRIC atmosphere!

 

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