So this Foodie Friday there’s a break from stories of our cooking classes around the world as we’ve now written about them all, which happened surprisingly quickly. Next stops are China and Indonesia so hopefully these will bring some cooking classes that are as amazing as the ones we’ve done so far. In the meantime I wanted to write more about the foodie experiences we’ve had both on our travels and closer to home – starting with an evening spent at Dans Le Noir in London.
We visited Dans Le Noir way back this time last year when we’d just decided to take some time out to travel and were on a weekend jaunt to the big city with my mum and sister. All of us love visiting London and it was a jam packed few days with highlights including a trip to see Harry Potter & The Cursed Child (incredible), plenty of time wandering our favourite spots in and around Covent Garden, the obligatory visit to M&Ms World (mum’s first) and our first time at the Imperial War Museum. It was a truly brilliant couple of days and I keep meaning to write about some of our favourite things to do in London, but one of the most memorable experiences we’ve ever had has to be the meal we enjoyed at Dans Le Noir.
Located near Farringdon station, it’s an unassuming building, that is home to one of the city’s most unique dining experiences. Dining in the dark is now a fairly well known concept and there are many restaurants across the world that specialise on this experience, many of which are part of the Dans Le Noir chain or are franchises. The idea itself is fairly simple, but the history and the experience itself are pretty fascinating. The first restaurant of the chain was opened in Paris to raise awareness of disability and visual disabilities in particular – the idea being that dining at Dans Le Noir would be a true sensory experience, but with one of the key senses temporarily removed. Served by blind and visually impaired employees, diners enjoy a set menu of quite excellent food with their sight completely impaired.
As you’re lead to your table the blanket of darkness is overwhelming. Your bags and other belongings have been safely stowed in lockers and your group is led, conga style, holding onto one another’s shoulders, into the restaurant where you are individually seated. I can’t even describe the darkness. It’s so intense that there’s no chance of your eyes adjusting and for at least the first half hour or so, emotions run high as you feel uncomfortable, awkward and nervous anticipating the evening ahead. My sister struggled to cope and almost had a full blown panic attack at this stage, but we managed to persuade her to stay and soon our food and drinks began to arrive.
The awkwardness continues and I’d suggest you only visit Dans Le Noir with close friends for the most comfortable experience. Just locating your food and drink on the table in front of you is hard enough, let alone working out how to tackle it – some attempt a knife and fork, often futilely, whilst others dive in with their fingers. This makes for an utterly bizarre evening, as you still have no idea of your setting, who else could be around you, or where any nearby sounds are coming from. If you’re anything like us you’ll remain completely disoriented and whilst it will get easier to manage eating from the plate in front of you as the courses progress, a lingering sense of unease will remain. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy dining at Dans Le Noir. It was an amazing experience and one of the most memorable and unique meals any of us have had, but being completely and utterly deprived of sight and trying to eat a meal as you would usually is very strange to say the least!
Sadly we can’t disclose the food we had – we had chosen the “white” menu – as the experience must be preserved for other diners. Safe to say that one of the oddest things of all was that without our sight we had very little idea of exactly what we’d been eating. Realising just how much the dining experience is wrapped up with being able to visually appreciate what you’re eating was surprising and when our menu was revealed we were shocked to find we’d all misidentified key ingredients.
For us this made for one of the biggest issues we had with dining at Dans Le Noir. Is it a waste to spend an evening eating such good food if you’ve little idea what it is you’re eating until you’re presented with a picture and a description after the fact? I’m still not sure on the answer to that one, but what I am sure of is that it was an experience I’d definitely recommend. Having that opportunity to more fully understand what sort of challenges daily life must hold for the 350,000+ people registered blind or partially sighted in the U.K gives you a new sense of empathy and a small element of understanding, whilst such a unique and interesting experience has to be tried to be believed. At times uncomfortable, often awkward, a meal at Dans Le Noir is a treat for the senses and is a great evening out in London.