It looks like a regular bar from the outside, complete with the requisite crowd of punters propping up a rather elegant bar. But on closer inspection, this crowd actually appears a little nervous – drinks clenched tight, apprehension apparent. It soon becomes clear why. After all, it’s not every day your sight is taken away from you.
Originating in Paris then Tokyo, Amsterdam and for the last five years, London, the Clerkenwell-based Dans Le Noir is based on the premise of eating in total pitch darkness. More interestingly, diners are also assigned their own blind waiter in order to assimilate into a literal ‘blind leading the blind’ scenario, calling upon the other four senses to gain a whole new appreciation for food (and eyesight).
Led into a heavily curtained tunnel with one hand on the waiter’s shoulder, sitting and adjusting to 100% black out is an experience not for the faint hearted. But it’s incredible what kicks in: sounds, smells and touch all become sensitized and a strange confidence ensues. It’s also a powerful way to understand what it’s like to be blind – to trust your instincts and have the pleasure of eating according to the body’s signals, not your eyes.
And the food? Well, it claims to be fine French dining, but tends to a mish mash of sometimes average, sometimes excellent ‘surprise’ dishes chosen from vague menus (food control freaks take note). Lemon sole, ostrich and alligator have all appeared on the menu – the strong flavours a sure-fire way to challenge the taste buds and encourage individuals to take part in a culinary guessing game. Don’t be fooled, it can get a little claustrophobic and tiring as your body is tricked into thinking it’s midnight. But it doesn’t matter. Trusting your senses for one night is a must-try.