Last week I visited Clerkenwell’s Dans le Noir, a restaurant that forces you to experience their cuisine using all of your senses by being completely shrouded in darkness. As you cannot see what’s on the plate in front of you, the four tasting menus on offer are so vague as to be more of a hindrance than a help – Meat, Seafood, Vegetarian and ‘Surprise’. This, combined with an entirely blind waiting staff, meant that I was feeling the full mysterious force of the place as I walked through the front door.

However, the first room was a well-lit bar where we ordered some cocktails. We were soon approached by a waiter who explained how the evening would go. Anything that might have lit up over the course of the evening – mobile phones, digital watches etc, had to be removed and placed in lockers to preserve the complete darkness of the dining room. Once we’d surrendered our gadgets we were asked to choose between the four set menus. We chose the ‘Surprise’ menu, as it seemed more in keeping with the theme of the restaurant and neither of us are that fussy about food.

Once our table became available we were introduced to our blind waiter, who advised us to pour our drinks out of the martini glasses and into plastic safety cups. We shuffled single-file into the dining room, a hand on the shoulder of the person in front. As the room became darker and darker the noise got louder – the waiters would shout out what they were doing and where they were going to avoid any collisions. Once we were seated our waiter told us that, if at any point we needed anything, we would have to shout out too to attract a waiter’s attention, which was hilarious. You’ve never experienced the truly ridiculous until you’ve spent the night screaming in a dark room for some more bread rolls!

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Our starter was pretty easy to figure out. If it smells like fish and tastes like crab, it’s probably crab. However, just because we knew what we were eating didn’t mean that eating was going to be a walk in the park. After some time trying to figure out where the food was on the plate, you’d have to get some on a fork and then get the fork to your mouth. For something that I’ve done every day of my life, it was surprisingly difficult in the dark! Our main course came in a fairly small portion, but was very tasty. It was quite a bit tougher to figure out, but we eventually settled on beef, potatoes and cabbage.

As soon as we were finished we where whisked back out of the restaurant in the same way we entered, holding onto our waiter’s shoulder. As we blinked away the glaring light, we were presented with a list of what had gone into our set menu. We had hit our starter right on the head, but were shocked to find out how wrong our guess on the main course had been. We had actually been served a plate of crocodile, springbok & ostrich! Had I known this was in front of me, I’m not totally sure I would have had any, so I was glad to get the chance to try something new.

The entire Dans Le Noir experience was fantastic and our attempts at trying to eat the food were hilarious. The menus might have been a bit pricey if it had been a ‘regular’ restaurant, but tasting the food without seeing it or knowing what you had ordered was very interesting. Just trying to work a knife and fork round the plate was a challenge!

Dans Le Noir is definitely worth a visit if you get a chance.

http://london.danslenoir.com/