Dans Le Noir is French for in the dark and dining in the dark was exactly what myself and my friend Sophie did on a casual Monday evening. I learnt about the concept only recently after Sophie’s friend told us about it and I was more than intrigued to experience it for myself. A quick e-mail exchange later and we were booked into a three course meal for the 7pm sitting.
Dans Le Noir unbeknownst to me have been providing this unique dining experience since 2006 and has since seen over 7 million people come through their doors. Now for the experience, you really have to be open to whatever and that means you can’t be overly fussy with your food. There are four menu options to choose from and as we wanted to trust the Chef’s decision, we went with the White Menu. This was a completely surprise menu which includes a combination of fish, shellfish and exotic meats. The other choices were:
- The Red Menu – A surprise menu which will include a selection of meat based dishes.
- The Blue Menu – Our pescatarian option, this surprise menu includes a selection of fish and shellfish based dishes.
- The Green Menu – A completely vegetarian menu
They also cater for vegans and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to cover gluten free options too. You are also asked at the beginning if you have any allergies. The experience allow you to learn about the disability of being blind and it was only natural that we both found ourselves a little nervous before entering the pitch black room.
Our guide was called Courtney who was blind. She quickly kept us at ease as she led us through the three sets of curtains that would take us into the dining area. Before we entered, we made sure to use the restrooms and stored our belongings in the free to use lockers. Please note that you are unable to take anything into the dining room except yourself, but the lockers are safe and are watched by the welcome staff.
As we entered the room, I used my right hand and placed it on Courtney’s right shoulder. Sophie did the same with me. We entered the restaurant and it is completely and utterly dark. There’s no light and you are walking blind. As one of my sense’s was restricted, the others seemed to intensify almost immediately. The smell of food hit me as well as the casual chatter of those already sat down. We were led to a table that we think was positioned somewhere in the middle of the room. Courtney guided us to the table, explaining where everything was and who we were sitting next to as we were sharing a table that could seat 10 people. The dining space as a whole caters for around 60 people.
The immediate issue I found with the darkness is that as I looked around, it almost felt as if my eyes were darkening the room even more. It also seemed as though, if I looked hard enough, I could see people’s outlines or someone every so often walking behind Sophie. However, as I adjusted, this was all very much in my head and a way of my eyes copping to having no light.
We had a surprise cocktail presented to us that was a sweet, citrusy drink and we were given the choice of still or sparkling water in bottles that we would have to pour ourselves. Suffice to say, that we at first struggled with making sure the water was actually going into the glass. One thing Courtney mentioned (and that I’d known before) was that putting your finger on the inner rim of the glass, would help you from overfilling it.
Our starters came out within 10 minutes of sitting down and this was of course the first challenge of eating the food. As your eyes can’t help you in this situation, the rest of your senses have to pick up the slack. My brain was certainly confused a number of times throughout the experience, trying to figure out the actual shape of the dish and where everything was on the plate. I really enjoy knowing where everything is on my plate so that I can mix food items together. Of course, this wasn’t something I was able to do so I would get a lot of separate flavours which were both exciting but sometimes a little disappointing for me. Not that the food wasn’t good because it was great. After you’ve dined, the welcome host shows you what you’ve eaten. We got this one correct as it’s something we’ve both had before. However, not being able to see it, does make you question your guess.
The mains came out on a plate that really had me perplexed and I actually ended up using my fingers by this point. I know, it sounds totally grim but when your in a restaurant where no one can see what you’re doing, you can get away with it. As we cautiously made our way around the plate, we sipped on our red wine that we’d very haphazardly clinked together to cheers the occasion. When we found out what the mains was, we were very surprised. There was three types of exotic meat and fish that I’d never tried before but most tasted similar to other meats I’ve had in the past.
The dessert was the dish that really surprised us. At first, we thought the pudding was in a small bowl on a plate. Turns out that wasn’t the case because Sophie actually broke through her ‘small bowl‘ which actually turned out to be edible! It was such a delightful moment that would normally not even cross my mind if I had my vision.
There are a few packages available in regards to the menu and these range from £49-£99. We were given the Degustation Menu which comes out as £74 each and includes a three course meal, two glasses of wine, a cocktail and the option of a hot beverage once you’ve come out of the dining room. I think for the experience, the price is certainly worth it. The food is delicious but I think the reason for going here should be about the experience and what you can learn about the disability. I think a lot of us can take our vision for granted and I know that towards the end of our meal, I was getting a little anxious to leave the room. It must be incredibly hard to not have your sight, especially for those who’ve lost their vision after having it.
Dans Le Noir is a fantastic concept, that offers those working there, the opportunity of having a paying job. It’s a great way of educating the public and making them more aware of the disability. They also have an upstairs area where every Thursday, they have a musical bar where you’re able to learn sign language to communicate ordering drinks.
Be sure to check out the venue if you are ever in the area and I’d like to thank all the team at Dans Le Noir for such an incredible experience.
*Disclaimer – I was given a complimentary meal in return for an honest review. All words are my own.