Here’s What It’s Like Dining in the Dark at Dans le Noir?

It’s a unique culinary experience where brilliant and charming visually-impaired staff lead the way

“Unique dining experience” is a phrase I’ve come to fear more and more over the years. Gimmicky eateries are usually overpriced, with substandard food and a wacky theme that nobody asked for. From vampire-themed pizzerias to 101 ways to serve avocado, we’ve seen it all, and quite frankly, we usually don’t want to see it ever again. That being said, there is one genuinely unique restaurant that has always piqued my interest – Dans le Noir? Not just because it’s featured in one of my favourite indulgently romantic movies (About Time) but also because it’s survived nearly 20 years in the capital’s competitive dining scene. That has to be a good sign.

We finally got the chance to visit Dans le Noir? recently. Stepping into the very smart bar area, we had our belongings, including phones and digital watches confiscated and safely locked up. The air was thick with apprehension and a buzz of excitement from other patrons. No one seemed quite sure what to expect as we waited, watching as table by table, the customers were led up some stairs into the dining area. Would it actually be pitch black? Should I not have worn a white shirt? How will I find my table? What if I need to pee?? Soon, we were put out of our misery, and it was our turn to enter the restaurant area.

We were introduced to our waiter for the evening, Roberto. At this point, I should mention that all of the floor staff are visually impaired or completely blind, which makes them, of course, the perfect hosts. We were instantly put at ease as we entered Roberto’s world. He carefully led us to our table, making jokes along the way as we relied solely on him to avoid ending up in another customer’s dinner.

Nothing could have prepared us for the experience of having such a vital sense removed. The room was pitch black, there was no difference between having your eyes open or closed. Was my ex in here? Better not bitch about anyone. We laughed nervously as we clumsily poured each other a glass of wine.

Roberto’s voice was suddenly next to us again. He served us our starters—we’d opted for the non-vegetarian set menu of three courses. Trying to find our cutlery, we began to navigate the food from plate to mouth, something I’d usually only struggle with after a few too many tequilas. Once the weight of the fork suggested it was suitably loaded, I manoeuver it to where my mouth should be, like a wayward grabber machine at a funfair.

As we sat there in darkness, I found myself making a special effort to carefully enunciate my words. I’d never been so aware of my North London twang; it was now the only thing people could notice about me, and probably not what they wanted to hear. The food was delicious, and I’m sure with the lights on, it would have looked great too.

There were no horrible shocks, nothing unnecessarily obscure thrown in. We guessed surprisingly well except for confusing an avocado with a banana but nobody’s perfect. Every flavour and texture was enhanced, and we became skilled at mapping out where everything was on our plates to achieve the perfect combination on our fork. One of the best things about eating in the dark? You can cheekily lick your plate without anyone knowing…

Once we had finished, we called out to Roberto again to lead us back into the light. Back in the bar, we were shown what we had eaten and could have a drink and a debrief in the light. The menu changes seasonally, which gives us an excuse to go back again, and we certainly will. Not only is Dans le Noir? a unique dining experience, but it is also a beautiful, different way to appreciate food.

Key Information

Address | 69-73 St John St, London EC1M 4NJ
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