I first heard of Dans Le Noir? last year and have been itching to go ever since. Dans Le Noir? is a restaurant with a gimmick. You eat in the dark. I don’t mean that the lights are dim; there are no lights. Mobile phones and watches with luminous dials are banned. There’s not so much as the ethereal glow of LEDs from around the room. All is dark.
You choose your meal in a dimly lit bar then, guided by your blind waiter, you are lead through a series of curtains until you are ensconced in total and utter pitch black.
Choices are made from a set menu with no specifics other than vegetarian, meat, fish, or “exotic”. This is a unique culinary experience. Relying only on smell, flavour and touch brings a whole new dimension to enjoying your food.
Going with a large group of people was an unnerving experience – never entirely sure of who was sat near you, or whose wine glass you were reaching for. I can imagine this would be a delightful place for an intimate dinner – possibly even a first date – as you have to rely on conversation to keep your companions aware of your presence.
The waiters were very attentive – although you can call out to them at any time should the need arise.
The food was tremendous fun. Like many expensive restaurants, portions were not overly generous but given the mix of flavours and characters on each plate, this is probably just as well. Rather than assault the few remaining senses, the chefs have cooked up a subtle treat which relies on your total surprise from the moment your fork first enters your mouth.
The dessert was a potpourri of elegant flavours and mouth-pleasing textures.
There is no doubt that it is a dining experience like no other.
There are some downsides – the restaurant caters for a large number of people. Due to the sensory deprivation, it seems that voices escalate and emotions are magnified. A table of women regularly found themselves shrieking at their merest touch from a passer-by which lead to another table raising their voices to be heard. The assault on the ears was quite tremendous and rather disconcerting. Normally one can use all the senses to judge the mood in the room – without sight it seemed that the evening could descend in to chaos at any time.
Emerging blinking into the light is a blessed relief and as refreshing as any digestif. We eagerly crowded around picture books with large photos showing the meals we had just eaten.
I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what we had – the “White” menu was particularly inventive and the vegetarian menu was pleasingly different despite being revealed as a rather pedestrian offering.
At £34 for a two course meal and £39 for three courses, Dans Le Noir? is well within the reach of anyone who values creative dining.