Here at H & L we know that looks aren’t everything; there’s more to love than the aesthetics, good genes or great fashion sense. We love people for who they are and how they make us feel. Dans Le Noir (translated as in the dark) are on the same page here. The dining concept strips away all the aesthetics and visuals entirely to leave us with the bits we truly love – food, wine, ambience, and, of course, conversation without inhibition. The restaurant, located very close to Farringdon tube station, invites those that push through the inconspicuous front doors to dine completely dans le noir. Perfect for a first date, if you’re an adventurous type. Equally as perfect if you’re in it for the long haul, looking for a date night to spice things up.
We visited the restaurant to celebrate our six year anniversary and despite having enjoyed many restaurant ‘date nights’ together there was something about this particular table reservation that made me nervous. But, then again, what could go wrong? Wearing a crisp, new white shirt, jeans and heels I later found out!
Before you dine, the staff kindly explain the concept and menus, completely putting you at ease and answering all questions. Suitable for couples who agree to disagree on food, or for vegetarians, or meat lovers alike, there are a number of options, with several different price points and drinks too. Unlike ‘normal’ restaurants, you don’t choose the food or order a specific drink, you don’t see the food you eat; you are encouraged to have a sense of spontaneity. This results in a heightened sense of instinctive smell, touch and sound, when you are submerged dans le noir to eat. The experience encourages you to notice new aspects to dining, new textures or flavours to your food and perhaps a new-found appreciation for what you’re eating. You suddenly notice the proximity to which you are seated, which you overlook when dining with visibility. I found this quietly thrilling, as if on a blind date of sorts.
Waiters at the restaurant are blind themselves, completely comfortable in the pitch black environment. Their sense of humour, efficiency and incredible ability to navigate around a restaurant, with stacks of plates or a tray of drinks is very humbling. Gently, the waiters lead you to your seat and place your hand to your ice cool cocktail – your sensual dining experience begins. Unusually quiet, I sipped the drink (tasting an orange sweetness in a jam jar type glass, or at least, I think!) and silently listened to the conversations around me.
Before I knew it a warm plate of deliciously scented…food…was placed in front of me. Holding a fork and knife, sheepishly, I cut and placed a piece into my mouth to savour the flavours. Immediately I recognised my first bite as buttery, pan fried asparagus. In the dark you are more aware of the temperature of food too, which we probably take for granted with our senses being overwhelmed by the movement, sound, lighting and music within a normal restaurant. The warm scallop and asparagus starter was so comforting. The couple’s starters to our right side also smelled mouth-watering, although it was difficult to place what it could be…
Promptly our starter plates (were they clean? Had we finished the plate?) were taken from us. Our waiter checked in to see how we were feeling then quickly disappeared, his voice vanishing far away among the sounds of cutlery, laughter and glasses clinking.
Ignoring my boyfriend’s attempts to play footsie under the table (too risky in the dark, so closely seated to other couples) our main meal soon arrived. The plate seemed to feel a different shape and cutting the food was a little difficult. Who knew how the food was presented but the flavours were all there. A dark (I thought) rich meat, which we later found was venison, a very smooth and creamy mash, a generous piece of white fish (couldn’t tell which, but it was later revealed to be turbot), and some vegetables. I nodded in agreement to my boyfriend’s sounds of approval. Something about the dark had made me fall silent, thoughtful and quietly very happy. Oddly, you feel very close to the person you are dining with, despite the fact that you can’t see or feel them. You can only hear their voice and your thoughts. Sipping wine in the dark was also fun – how much had we drunk? Is this the wine I usually choose? Should we clink glasses?
Our dessert arrived and I couldn’t resist poking it with my finger. Soft, light, then pressing it on my tongue…creamy! A slightly sweetened, creamy layer on top of a very light savoury sponge. I guessed basil as the sponge’s flavour, but it was actually rosemary. The scent wasn’t overpowering, the flavour very subtle and surprisingly nice. I much preferred this to the thought of eating a gluttonous, rich slab of chocolate cake in the dark. Eating cake in the dark I do recommend – you have no feeling of guilt; it is finished before you can question how big it may have been. A green cake would not have been so visually appealing but it was refreshing and just right to complete our unusual dining experience.
For health and safety reasons hot drinks to follow your meal are served in the bar outside of the dark restaurant. We emerged from the darkness, clutching our waiter slightly less than we had before, and took a few moments to adjust to the light. Whilst warmly and dimly lit it was very odd to get used to again, but quite a relief to be able to see again. It felt like no time at all had passed but our dining experience was a full two hours! I had a number of food stains on my shirt, so we skipped hot drinks, much to my embarrassment, and hiding slightly behind the bar, we spoke to our hosts who revealed what we had eaten. Our guesses were close but there were a few surprises.
Dining at Dans Le Noir should be on each couple’s date night wishlist. With only a few locations in the world it is certainly something to ‘tick off’ together. Leaving hand in hand, slightly drunk with the sensual experience, it had certainly spiced up our ‘date night’ expectations for an evening meal.