At lunch today a complete stranger reached over table and forcefully poked me right in the gob as I was eating, I didn’t really mind though, and after I pointed out what had happened everyone else round my communal table smiled and laughed. Or at least I think they did, I’m still not really sure…
I was at Dans le Noir, London’s original pitch black restaurant, eating a plate of what we thought to be jelly fish or crocodile or sushi, and maybe some chocolate–covered turkey, and salmon probably with kimchi or pickles and tomatoes, oh and maybe cucumber. In reality it was overly salty Prosciutto ham, a nice but boring salad of olives, tomatoes and cucumber, two parcels of bland cream cheese wrapped in salmon and few tasty slithers of carpaccio of venison with chocolate and chilli.
But really the food wasn’t the point, the entire experience was dominated by the fact that everything we did occurred in total and absolute darkness. And everything was helped along by guzzling three glasses of passable wine from large tumblers. Nothing was as difficult as you’d imagine, mostly due to our incredible partially sighted waitress. She was there from the very start and guided us through the entire experience in a friendly, funny and welcoming manner. She led us in and out of the pitch blackness, seated us carefully, orientated us so we could find our own cutlery and quickly committed all of our names and table positions to memory so that she could, over our squeals and shouts, guide glasses of wine into our raised hands and deliver water, bread and the dishes without fuss.
We weren’t there for a full meal, and for that I was glad, instead I was a guest of Smartbox, a pre-packed gift experience company who feature Dans le Noir in both their tastings (£29.95 for 2 people drinking 3 glasses of wine) and table for two (£59.95 for 2 people eating 2 courses) packages.
Judging by the quality of my one dish I’d say you’re best off settling for the briefer and cheaper wine tasting; unless you’re particularly excited about the thought of consuming food in the dark just stick to getting drunk and have fun talking about whether or not you think your own eyeballs are missing, or how stupid you must look to the front of house staff watching you on infrared CCTV. I’d also really recommend going as a large group particularly one that was unfamilar with one other, because, as I found out whilst seated next to eight strangers, the sheer novelty of the experience is a great icebreaker. I imagine that doing the same with a close friend could mean that once the novelty had worn off you’d quickly realise the basic nature of the overpriced cuisine and wine.
It’s weird to review a restaurant and think negatively of the food, but still end up recommending it, but that’s just what I’m doing here. As we all stumbled out of the room ninety minutes later and significantly drunker, and stood blinking and rubbing our eyes at the harshness of daylight we all shook hands again, suddenly putting smiling faces to shouted names, and we knew we’d just experienced something kind of special. I’d probably never go back, I’ve now had the experience, but if you haven’t you should really learn what it’s like to be poked in the face by a stranger over lunch whilst you try to convince yourself you’re not eating a jelly-fish.