Dans le Noir, London
30-31 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0DU – 5 minute walk from Farringdon underground station.
I have wanted to come to this ‘dine in the dark’ restaurant for a few years now and none of my friends would come with me. They didn’t want to eat food if they didn’t know what it was they were eating. So I decided go by myself. Dans le Noir is a franchise with restaurants in many cities, offering a unique dining experience. The London restaurant has been open for around 12 years, so it has to be quite good, right?
On arriving at the restaurant, I was greeted by a host and given a locker for my bag, coat and phone. Once locked, I was able to keep hold of the key. So it’s a good idea to wear something with a pocket, as the waiter had to look after mine. I was then given a menu to choose from. There are several different types… meat, fish, vegetarian or vegan but once you have chosen, what you get on your dinner plate is a surprise! The menus can be adapted to suit dietary requirements/allergies, you just need to let the host know before hand.
Menus & Prices
2 course meal costs £48 or £56 if you have a glass of wine included
3 course meal costs £55 or £63 including a glass of wine
Degustation Menu costs £75. This is a 3 course meal with a surprise cocktail and 2 glasses of wine
Tasting menu is a 5 course meal with a glass of champagne and 4 x 125ml glasses of wine priced at £100.
If you wish to pay a supplement of £15 then you may have 3 types of cheeses with a glass of port.
I chose the degustation menu with the meat option.
At 6pm guests were called for dinner. The host asked us to form a line. Each person was told to hold the person in front’s shoulder. The visually impaired waiter then led us through to the dark room. We entered the dining area which seats around 60 people, by passing through 2 sets of heavy curtains. At this point you cannot see anything at all. The room is totally pitch black. We were asked to hold the rail to our right and, one by one, we were guided to our seat. The waiter helped us feel the edge of the table, our chair, cutlery, napkins and glasses.
I was seated next to a lovely young couple and we chatted a lot throughout our mystery meal. We tried to identify food types, flavours and drinks without being able to see any of it. We laughed as we attempted to pour water in our glasses from a bottle we had to feel around for. Afterwards, we then managed to raise and join our glasses to say ‘cheers’ without spilling any!
Cutting the food on our plate was a challenge. Several times I put an empty fork in my mouth as I hadn’t been able to keep the food on it. Eating some of it with my fingers was my last resort. The waiter encouraged it and I wasn’t alone. Gravy covered, sticky fingers, spilt food on the table and in my lap, what an experience! It was such good fun. Luckily the napkins were large and thick which kept me clean.
It was interesting how my sense of sound was heightened. There were times when I found it hard to concentrate on what the people next to me were saying because I couldnt filter out the other voices and noises around me. I expected my sense of smell to be stronger for some reason, but it wasn’t.
After dinner, our waiter led us out of the restaurant. It was a strange sensation seeing light again and it took a while for my eyes to adjust. We were taken to the silent bar (another experience for a later date) to look at the photographs of the food we had actually eaten.
It was funny, before I went along to the restaurant, I was a little apprehensive about eating foods that I might not like. I have never enjoyed eating what I call ‘normal’ veg… the kind my mum overcooked when I was a kid (sorry mum!). However, to my surprise, I had eaten one of those foods and another that I had vowed I would never eat and actually enjoyed them! Shows how much I eat with my eyes!
I won’t share the food I had with you because I think it will spoil it for any readers who intend on going along in the near future. The menus are seasonal and therefore change every 3 months.
Book in Advance
Booking in advance is essential. If I had wanted to come along on a Saturday, there was a six week wait. Mid-week bookings were less busy and there are different time slots available. I chose the 6pm time slot. The waiter informed me that the later sittings can get quite noisy so I was pleased I came at the time I did.
The waiter, Simon, was a delight. He has worked at the restaurant for 5 years and made it clear he was on hand to help us at any time, just call his name. Simon was friendly, talkative and attentive, frequently checking everything was ok. He called us by our first names too, which I liked. I have never liked being called madam! Far too formal!
50% of the staff in this restaurant are visually impaired apparently. This 2 hour experience came with its challenges and it made me realise some of the simple things I take for granted. Everyday life must be incredibly difficult if you are visually impaired.
Would I Return?
Yes I would. I really enjoyed my solo dining experience. The people I was seated next to were nice and the waiters were talkative. I didn’t have to sit there silent. The food was tasty too. It was an incredible 2 hour experience and I am so glad I went along.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my fantastic experience here and try it yourself! Have a look at some of the other restaurants I have been to as well. Alternatively, have a look at my blog post on my top 10 things to do solo in London.