Hailed a ‘unique sensory and human experience’, Dans Le Noir, offers guests a dinner to remember.
The restaurant’s name translates as ‘In the Dark’, and it’s often been voted as one of the 10 most original restaurants in the world, with the first being opened in Paris to raise awareness of disability and visual disabilities in particular.
As for what can be expected, the name gives a strong hint, but guests are served in complete darkness by blind and visually impaired employees.
Upon arrival, the hostess gives you the lowdown on what’s going to happen; firstly all belongings are stored in a locker – including phones and watches.
You are then escorted to the “waiting area” where a pre-dinner drink can be enjoyed amongst conversation about what you might be eating. The menus are a surprise, with the only option being fish and meat, or vegan.
The hostess then radios to the restaurant upstairs and it’s time to dine in the dark.
We were greeted by Fabio, our waiter, who led us into the restaurant, not before getting tangled in a curtain and several bumps into walls and chairs, as our eyes adjusted to the darkness, and our other senses kicked in.
The room was noisy, with laughter, clapping and the occasional “coming through” being hollered by the waiters. Our table was adjacent to two others, and one couple was already seated enjoying their meal.
The first task was to pour ourselves water, and most of it ended up on the table rather than in a glass. Luckily, the wine came pre-poured, so we didn’t have to worry about wasting a drop of that.
It wasn’t long before our starter arrived, and the guessing game began. There was a deep temptation to pick up the plate and sniff out the ingredients, which we soon recognised as a popular fish. As for trying to eat the starter, cutlery was quickly abandoned in favour of fingers, and ended up getting rather messy.
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The rest of the meal was a combination of trying to figure out the set-up of the restaurant – how many people were in the room? How do the waiters know where to place things and pick them up, even if they’ve been moved? And working out what we were eating.
We were told if we needed anything to shout loudly for Fabio and he would come and help, but he was extremely busy between serving tables, assisting new customers into their seats and running back and forth to the kitchen. Both ourselves and the table next to us ended up waiting a long time to leave the room after finishing our meal.
The food itself was great, although it wasn’t quite the fine dining cuisine we expected; there’s the saying “we eat with our eyes” for a reason, and when sight is taken away, our taste is heightened. We were looking forward to interesting explosions of flavour in your mouth, but we got simple, well-matched ingredients. The dishes were good, but not exciting or new.
The only other area for improvement was the ‘waiting room’. Considering it’s one of two areas you actually see – the toilets being the other – it needs modernisation. The brown wall tiles, deep red paint and bright lights transport you back to the 1970s, it wasn’t giving you ‘luxury cocktail lounge’ vibes.
Overall, Dans Le Noir is a fun, alternative dining experience which gives visitors great insight into how people with visual disabilities dine.
While the concept of the restaurant is one-of-a-kind, the organisation was a little clunky, and the food and areas outside the restaurant could be improved to make it a truly memorable visit.
Prices for Dans Le Noir start at £52 for a two course set menu, (a starter and main, excluding drinks).
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