March celebrates the 10th anniversary of Dans le Noir, home of the mystery menu eaten in total darkness.
We’re not talking eye adjusting darkness, this place is pitch black.
Following a pre-dinner cocktail in the lit foyer, all mobile phones, watches and anything else that can reflect light were placed in lockers. My guest and I picked one of four colour-coded clandestine menus: red (meat), blue (fish), green (vegetarian) or white (chef’s surprise). The catch? You don’t actually find out what you’ve eaten until afterwards.
We were introduced to our waiter. His name was Roberto. And he was blind.
With a hand on Roberto’s shoulder so he could lead us to our table we were walked through thick velvet curtains and into a realm of mystification (with wonderful smells coming from the kitchen) but bereft of our sight. All the waiting staff are blind and a chunk of Dans le Noir’s charm is how it challenges preconceptions about people who face barriers to work.
The food soon arrived and we, at first, shambolically, tucked in and tried to guess what we were eating. In this 60-seater other world the food’s stunning. We dined on scallops, kangaroo, ostrich and figs to name but a few. But how are dishes decided for guests who are stripped of one of the five senses? Michelin star chef Julien Machet was hired to consult and help John Houel, the London Head Chef, to create the eclectic menus which change every season: “John and I mix our recipes to make it all about flavours and feelings”, he says.
Part of the magic of Dans le Noir was the ease at which we conversed with faceless strangers. Within a short time we were talking Brexit and celeb baby names with the couple beside us, followed by trying to guess each other’s age and height!
This truly unique culinary experience is one worth having. Where, for once, diners tend not to focus on the culinary part.
Prices start from £46 for two courses.
Dans le Noir, 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU.
Dans le Noir restaurants can be found in London, Paris, Barcelona and St Petersburg.