Those of you who follow my Facebook page (and if you don’t – why not? I have giveaways on there and everything!) will know that Mr E arranged for us to eat at Dans Le Noir – a restaurant in London that serves dinner in the total darkness.
It’s a concept I’d heard of before but never really thought about. How hard can it be to eat in total darkness after all? We have four other senses that should help us out on that (plus as a reader I often drink tea or eat chocolate without dragging my eyes away from the page). This should be easy, shouldn’t it?
Yeah, not so much!
On arrival we were asked to put all our belongings in a locker. They operate a strict no-light policy – so no phones, no flashlights, not even watches that have a little push button illumination. And then they asked us to choose our menu. It’s pretty simple, there are only four choices: Vegetarian, Fish, Meat or Chef’s Surprise (meat AND fish). We chose the surprise and a glass of wine. I’d already decided I didn’t like the idea of trying to pour wine from a bottle in the dark.
Then they call you and line you up in a corridor. There were four of us – the Mister and I plus another couple we didn’t know. We had to stand in line and put a hand on the shoulder in front of us, and our server then led us through three sets of curtains into the complete darkness.
From this point on, until the end of the meal, I couldn’t see a thing.
The server helps you to get seated. He then tells you that in front of you is a napkin and suggests you use it as a bib; otherwise you’re going to get dirty. Being naturally curious I had a good feel around the table – I found my cutlery, a glass and –of course – a bottle of water. Being even more curious I decided to pour it just to see if I could.
The only way I could do it was by using my fingers. I had to hold them in my glass to make sure it didn’t overflow. Thank goodness I’m a bit of a hygiene freak.
Then they brought out the first course. It took a little while to work out how to get the food onto my fork (scooping rather than stabbing was easier), but when I tasted it I realized it was salmon and something else I couldn’t quite place. The husband and I spent a lot of time trying – and failing – to work out what it was, as did the couple next to us.
That was another interesting thing about the restaurant – you get sat next to complete strangers. Because you’re so close it feels rude not to talk. We enjoyed getting to know them, where they were from, and sharing a laugh as we all tried our best not to spill our food down our fronts.
A little while later the second course came. By the way the wait staff are amazing. A lot of them are either partially sighted or have no sight at all, and yet they never spilled anything, managed to slide our plates in front of us without any problems, and cleared up in the same way. Our server was called Jack and he was fabulous.
So the second course came out and this was a little harder to eat. There were so many different tastes – some kind of steak, maybe a bit of fish, vegetables that tasted maybe like carrots and broccoli. It was so hard to tell what we were eating, but it tasted delicious. The biggest issue was trying to tell if you’d cleared the plate or not. In the end I decided to let my stomach choose when to stop eating. It was mindful eating at its best.
After dessert we were asked if we were ready to go back into the light and find out what we’d been eating. At this point I had no idea how much time had passed. It felt as though the food had come very quickly, but in the complete dark without any cues to the time (such as darkening skies or you know, a watch) it was so hard to tell. It turned out we’d been in there for over an hour and half. I’d thought it was less than an hour. Goes to show I’m not great at guessing time!
Once again we were led out of the restaurant in complete darkness, holding the person in front’s shoulder. It felt strange to come into the light – cue lots of blinking. But within a minute I was completely used to it again.
Over coffee the wait staff showed us photographs and descriptions of what we’d eaten. Lots of ‘oh’s when we realized that it was crab we’d tasted in the first course (how did I not guess that) and another eek when I realized I’d eaten Llama for my main course (I’m so sorry, Llama. I didn’t know. I thought you were cow.)
In all it was an amazing experience. The aim is to give diners an insight for a couple of hours to what it’s like to go through life partially sighted. I was expecting my other senses to improve but they didn’t – whether this was because it was a short time, or whether my other senses are rubbish I’ve no idea. All I know is that it was an amazing experience (and a funny date night) but I’m not sure I’ll be eating in that kind of darkness again.
Have you ever eaten in the pitch black? Would you want to? How would you feel if you had to eat things without knowing what they were?
Let me know in the comments!