18 February 2015

Dans Le Noir?: restaurant review, a dining experience and a few ponderings

How do you begin with an experience such as Dans Le Noir? Translating literally to 'in the black', Dans Le Noir is a sensory eating experience like no other. Seated in the pitch black, with a menu of surprises, it isn't an average meal out, that's for sure. The underlying ethos of Dans Le Noir? is to create a "A sensory journey helping us to re-evaluate our perception of taste and smell."

Dans Le Noir?: restaurant review, a dining experience and a few ponderings

Sam and I entered the Clerkenwell restaurant foyer full of curiosity and nervous anticipation. As far as foyers go, it's fairly nondescript, but the excitement begins to build as we're seated briefly and asked to select our menu. Opting one for the 'surprise' menus; red for meat, blue for seafood, green for vegetarian and white for total surprise, my lovely dinner companion for the evening selects the red option whilst I figure that throwing all caution to the winds is the craziest option, and ask for the white menu. I'm a foolhardy foodie, me. The serving lady asks for any dietary requirements or food we can't eat (me, none; my dinner date, no pork) before reassuring us that it wasn't a problem and gesturing us towards the bank of lockers.

After locking away our glowing worldly goods, one of their blind waiting staff rests my rights hand on their shoulder, and congas leads us through blackout several curtains. It gets darker and darker, and before we know it the known world drops from our gaze. Guiding us around a bevy of unseen chairs and tables, we're seated by our smooth as silk waiter. Comfortably against a wall, we giggle nervously, feeling our way around the table. Napkin, knife, fork, tumblers and water jug. All exactly where they should be.

It feels weird.

Dans Le Noir?: restaurant review, a dining experience and a few ponderings

Shortly our server returns, each time announcing his presence and checking we're still ok, to softly land plates of surprising texture and taste. We're both talking a little bit louder to each other, both in excitement, and as the room begins to fill up with other people. It's surreal to say the least - at least 20 other people are sitting in the same space as us, but they seem like a strange dream as their voices drift over in fits and starts. We eat with a combination of fingers and utensils, guessing at each kind of texture but having no clue really as to what we're eating, and hesitantly pour glasses of water using the tips of our fingers to avoid over filling the glass. The whole way through our server encourages us to call if we need anything - more wine, a cheesy joke or simply to be led out if we feel uncomfortable.

We muse over the incredible insanity of what we're doing - totally deprived of light, our eyes can’t be fooled by the chef-fy presentation tricks used in deceive the senses, but concentrate solely on the food and textures in front of us. Both of our meals have a combination of fascinating flavours - our mains consisiting of 3 gourmet sized portions (one seafood, one game meat, one fowl) which further had us second guessing what we were tasting. Bar the noise levels of the other guests being rather loud, and the meals being slightly too cold we both loved the theatrical experience, and spent a good hour discussing our meals over mint tea once we had emerged in the upstairs bar. Spying the reveal menu over payment, we were relieved to find that our guesses were fairly spot-on on most counts, though dessert had puzzled us in many ways.

In truth, we left with more questions than we arrived with. 


Does the food taste better or worse when you have no idea what it is?
Is it avant-garde or exotically gimmicky?
How did we manage to guide the forks to our mouths?
Is it possible to even write a restaurant review without mentioning any of the dishes?

Would we do this again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

29 comments :

  1. I've always been curious about this restaurant. How do you know if you've eaten everything off the plate? Without being able to see what I was doing I'd probably make a real mess!

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  2. I loved this idea since I saw it in the movie About Time. We have it here in Singapore too but it's really pricey and I can't find anyone who would want to spend that much and try it with me. (Sad face)

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  3. I find the whole thing insane, not necessarily bad, but insane! Part of what makes eating so enjoyable is the visual nature of food.

    I remember a study where people who become colour blind said they didn't enjoy eating as much as they did when they saw in full colour (food in various shades of grey is just not appealing).

    This place has been around for a while so it must be doing something right - and I'd certainly give the experience a go!

    Interesting paper on the Dark Dining phenomena: https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-25/edition-12/dining-dark

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  4. This is the coolest thing! I'd just love to visit Dans Le Noir. I actually only heard of it once I saw the movie About Time and I've been fascinated by it ever since!

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  5. I think I would be really freaked out, I do not like the dark at all.

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  6. I always wanted to try one of these restaurants, but didn't realise there was one in London. Exciting. And I actually tittered at 'conga' (tittering is far superior to loling, I'll have you know) x

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  7. Would be way too much for me I think. Not sure... think I like to see what and where I'm eating and who I'm eating with!!
    Rosie xx

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  8. Wow, I've never heard of anything like this. I really don't like the dark, but I think it would be a cool experience. I am all for surprise menus so I think that the hardest part would be cutting up the food and trying to put it into my mouth! Glad to hear you would do it again.

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  9. haha, you were so brave. I don't know I could handle being in the dark so long. I do want to try the different coloured one, where they change the colours and what not with each meal.

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  10. Ah I have heard of this and it sounds so good! I definitely need to try this soon x

    Jasmin Charlotte | UK Lifestyle Blog

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  11. So glad I went with someone as curious as me! It was a bit of a challenge, bit of an adventure, but I really enjoyed the night.

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  12. For some reason, the idea of this scares me. I have no idea why! x

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  13. I love the scene in 'About Time' where they eat at one of these dark restaurants. I don't think it would be anything I'd want to do, but still - very cool idea!

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  14. I think it's just the unknown - I probably wouldn't do it in any city other than London, and even then it was a proper leap of faith. I'm glad we did though!

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  15. It was quite an experience - I'm going to have to watch 'About Time' I think!

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  16. Thank you for joining me - I'm was glad to do it with someone as crazy as me :)

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  17. You won't believe it! We were laughing afterwards about having a dinner party at home in the dark, but it wouldn't be the same!

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  18. You probably spend about 1.5hrs in the dark (I think the tables are around 2 hours?) The hardest part was actually walking to and from the table - once seated I was quite happy!
    It does sound fun doesn't it!

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  19. Crazy idea isn't it? We were pleasantly surprised that most of the food went into our mouths - we have to admit that we ended up a little caveman-like at the end of evening, hands and all :)

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  20. We got a bit cavemen - I've always said that playing with your food makes it taste better!

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  21. Yes! I have been twice now. I took my sis while she was here. I think it's a great experience! I got the surprise menu both times.... I had zebra the first time, was so good!

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  22. I love About Time! Great film to watch if you live in London :)

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  23. Hmmm...It never really appealed to me, but it's very interesting to read about your experience!

    Lots of love,
    Angie
    SilverSpoon London

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  24. I was fascinated at our reaction to food flavour - but you're right, it takes a certain kind of crazy to want to do something like this!

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  25. Cannot believe I didn't ask you about this on Saturday!! So glad that you guys enjoyed it!! (Feeling thoroughly silly for not going.) Did I read correctly that the servers are blind? When you want to leave, does someone guide you back out again?

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  26. Yes, all the servers are visually impaired or blind which is the underlying ethos of the franchise - helping the community. Yep, if you want to leave you just call for your server & they'll help you out. It's happened a few times...

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  27. Utterly fascinating - I wish I'd read this prior to going!

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  28. We thought it would be a little strange - maybe not an ideal first date!

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  29. It's an otherworldly experience, that's for sure. I'd do it again!

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