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Can eating the dark be more poetical than dining by candlelight?
Still arousing people’s curiosity today, Dans le noir (French for in the dark) is a truly unique dining and sensory experience. Food blogger, Elsa Messi went to see if it could wow your senses more than a night-in reading Perfume.
This uniqueness lies within the concept, eating and drinking in total darkness and having a complete transfer of trust with your blind waiter. It established its first successful franchise in 2004 in Paris growing from strength to strength, leading it to develop internationally in London, Barcelona and a soon-to-open new setting in New York.
Upon entering the restaurant situated in Clerkenwell, you are greeted by the friendly bar staff who debrief you on what it is to expect of your evening. Their main policy to get the most out of the experience is to store your belongings in a designated locker and strictly have no cameras or mobile phones in your possession. If you do not choose to have a drink at the lit bar area beforehand, then the introduction of your ‘guide’ for the duration of your meal is the next step.
Ordering your meal is simple enough, you choose from 4 concise menus which include the blue menu for fish and seafood lovers, green menu for vegetarians, a red menu for carnivores and a white menu which is the chef’s surprise and can consist of a mixture of all three. They ask you if there is anything you cannot eat due to dietary requirements rather than what it is you would like to eat. The waiter advises all dining parties to follow him/her through to the heavily curtained, pitch black dining room in a single file, placing your hand on the shoulder of the person in front, resembling a training or trust exercise.
You are sat down at your table and how you get the attention of your ‘guide’ is by calling out their name if he/shedoes not happen to be at close proximities at any time. This experience is not for the faint hearted but you do seem to get well adapted fairly quickly to pouring your drinks, feeling where everything is located and the friendly voices surrounding you are somewhat a comfort, also your guide is with you every step of the way. Your sense of smell, touch, hearing and taste become sensitised. Although vulnerability and helplessness is a big part of this concept, you are left with a new found confidence as you get more and more used to your surroundings.
It is a culinary guessing game and some guides advocate to ditch the cutlery and eat with your hands. Unfortunately, the food is below average and does not match the quality of the concept and the great service. Although they want you to refamiliarise yourself with the familiar, it is very difficult to recognise what you are putting in your mouth, maybe with the exception of the desert.
When your meal is finished, you are escorted back to the lit bar area where the concotion of your meal is revealed. They claim that it is French cuisine but it is more a mixture of modern European where exotic meats are heavily focused on.
Yes, this is a revolutionary and unique experience. The concept is very well thought and it is a sort of role reversal between you and your blind guide where they are the ones in control whilst you are left with a wide feeling of vulnerability and you have no choice but to place your complete trust in their hands.
Costing at £41 for two courses or £49 for three per head excluding drinks. If it is the experience you are after then by all means give it a try as nothing like this has been done before in the UK. If, however, it is the food you want to focus on, it really is not worth the time or money as the food is disappointing and you could probably create a similar experience at home with food, guests and a blindfold. But Dans Le Noir does get an A for effort.