MTV boyfriend was delighted. I told him he could wear anything he wanted to this restaurant, tracksuit pants even. The reasoning behind this sartorial slackness was that we were headed to Dans Le Noir. The concept behind Dans Le Noir is that you eat in total darkness and are guided through your meal by a blind person. You have no idea of what you are eating and must experience the world through your other senses as a blind person does. The benefit of this is that it really does not matter what you are wearing.
We chose from the menu in the lighted bar area, the choices were limited to the red menu (meat), blue menu (fish), green menu (vegetarian) or white menu (chef’s choice). I put myself in the hands of the chef while predictably carnivorous MTV boyfriend opted for the red menu. Mobile phones, cameras and watches are stored in lockers so that we have no light emitting devices (so the only photo I have is of the sign outside). Our blind guide then came to lead us into the restaurant. We were paired up with another couple that we were to sit with and formed a chain following our guide through the curtain into the darkness.
It is very rare to be in true darkness. Even in the middle of the night at home I can still see a faint glimmer of light through the chink in the blind from the street light outside. Dans Le Noir was so dark that it almost hurt your eyes as you desperately tried to focus on something. I have no idea how our blind guide found his way to our table and seats and seated us but it was impressive.
Much hilarity ensued attempting to pour our drinks by placing our fingers in our glasses to try and work out when they were full. As we waited for our meals I noticed that everyones natural inclination was to speak loudly to be heard and speaking over the top of one another as the usual visual cues that one person had finished speaking and another was about to start were absent.
Entrees arrived and I quickly worked out that I had some sort of salad. But salad of what? It was hard to tell but I guessed that there was maybe duck in there somewhere and there was also some warmed fruit. In this environment of total darkness I looked forward to all my senses being heightened, particularly my sense of taste. What I hadn’t bargained for was that I would not be able to recognise some flavours or that this enhanced sense of taste would make some things taste disgusting. Part of the salad was incredibly bitter. I was not sure whether my taste was thrown by the darkness or whether the kitchen was just very bad.
Main course seemed to be steak and mashed potato. The steak was superb and bursting with flavour. Then I touched upon something else on my plate. It was small, soft and truly disgusting. I practically had to spit it out. MTV boyfriend was most amused and continued to happily devour what he thought was pad thai.
Finally the desserts which were served as a trio and were much easier to identify than the savoury courses. It tasted like a serving of chocolate mousse, perhaps an apple tart and then gelati. Once we had finished our guide lead us back into the bar area and the light. I was relieved to be out of the darkness and amazed to see our guide collect his guide dog to head home after having lead us through our meal so confidently. We were shown a menu of what we had actually being eating. Dans Le Noir doesn’t change the menu often so I don’t want to spoil it by telling you exactly what we had except to say that our guesses were well off the mark on some counts and that it appears I have an aversion to wild snails.
A meal at Dans Le Noir is great fun along with providing a limited understanding of what it would be like to be blind. However, I think Dans Le Noir is really a one off visit as rather than serving actual dishes they tend to assemble as many flavours as possible on one plate which does not always have pleasant results. In my mind warm rhubarb and foie gras do not a good combination make. Also, although it may be a trivial concern, if we constantly ate in total darkness all my nice outfits would never get an outing.
Details: 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, Farringdon EC1R ODU (Ph 020 7253 1100)
Damage: Pricey (£38 per person for three courses)