Last Sunday I went up to London to Dans le noir which I had organised for my friend Zuleka’s 21st birthday present. We travelled to London at lunchtime and went to Oxford Circus and Carnaby Street where we got a drink and went to a few shops. Of course I took full advantage of the Christmas lights and took a chins on tour which was met with very strange looks from passers by.
I love the hustle and bustle of London. How everything moves at a fast pace and there are people everywhere going about their days. It reminded me a lot of how New York felt and made me think I should really visit London more often as it takes me just under an hour to get there.
Once we had finished at Oxford Circus we caught the tube over to Farringdon Station which only required one change. I had google maps ready when we left Farringdon Station but was surprised that it was literally a two minute walk from the station. We arrived at about 6pm and were waiting outside as our booking wasn’t until half past six and they hadn’t opened yet but the staff noticed us and let us in early to get out of the cold. The staff were one of the best things about Dans Le Noir. They were extremely friendly and happy to help at any minute.
As you enter you the dimly lit bar you are asked to choose what menu you would like with a choice of meat, fish, vegetarian or the chef’s special. You are then asked to select the experience you wish to have ranging from two courses to five courses accompanied with surprise wine. We went for the meat menu and the three course experience. Once we had ordered drinks we were introduced to Claire who would be our waitress for the evening. All the waiters at the restaurant are blind which is why the element of darkness does not matter to them. We all formed a human train in single file and were shown to our table. I knew it would be dark but I genuinely don’t think I have ever been in a darker environment in my life apart from maybe the womb (not that I remember). At night there is normally still some form of light from electronics on standby or the lamp posts outside your window.
I was surprised at how vulnerable it felt to be in complete darkness. We had been chatting earlier in the day about what it might feel like, shutting our eyes and trying to find different objects on the table but it was incomparable because you were still in control then. You could open your eyes at any second and get your bearings. We had never been into this dark room before and didn’t know the layout or size. We had to put our total trust in Claire who showed us to our table with such confidence. She told us to just shout her name if we needed anything and left us to get used to our new surroundings.
When we sat down we felt our way around the table learning where our cutlery was positioned and reached across the table to find one another. It sounds totally ridiculous but I kept opening my eyes as wide as possible as if that would possibly help me be able to see. I think this is because when you’re in the dark at home, your eyes eventually adjust to whatever small amount of light there is. Another part of the experience that was bizarre was having no idea what time it was.You are asked to put your belongings into lockers before you enter so nothing in the room is capable of creating light and impairing the experience. It felt like we were in there for half an hour but actually were in there for over an hour and a half.
Claire brought us over some drinks and soon our starter came and it smelt amazing however we soon realised how difficult it was going to be to eat. We tried to cut the meat on our plates but it was hard to know how big the piece of meat you had cut was. Safe to say it was messy and the table needed a good clean once we had left. We tried to work out what we eating but could not pinpoint what meat we were eating. It was was too tender to be steak or pork but did not have the same texture as chicken. We settled on pheasant or another unusual form of poultry. We worked out that there was some sort of fruit purée on the top and it was served on a bed of salad. The portion was very generous and there was a lot of meat on the plate.
Once we had finished Claire came over and took our plates and said she would be back soon with our mains. We were amazed how easily Claire cleared the table, finding our plates with ease and whisking them away. By this point, more guests had started arriving meaning the dark room was getting louder. This made it almost harder to concentrate on what we were saying to one another because our senses were heightened because we couldn’t rely on sight.
After what felt like five minutes, Claire returned with our main courses. She explained that the plate is divided into three with each section having a different dish to try. We began eating and discussing what we thought we were having and were all coming up with very different ideas. It was only after we had almost finished our main that we realised we had no idea which way our plate was served to us so our strategy of going for a certain section at the same time was flawed. There were so many different flavours to try in the mains, with each dish containing different meat that we struggled to identify once again. I had always watched programmes like Hell’s Kitchen where the chefs are blindfolded and asked to identify different foods and thought it would be easy, never understanding why they struggled. Now I understand.
Once we had finished our mains, Claire but us our desserts. This was my least favourite part of the meal, partly because I prefer savoury and partly because I didn’t love the pudding. There were different elements making up the pudding which we tried to piece together, one being a mousse which I didn’t think had much flavour. We managed to work out that there was some cinnamon involved in one of the elements and tried guessing what fruit was involved but still were pretty clueless on exactly what we were eating,
We finished our meal and Claire came and ushered us into a single-file train again with complete ease. I found walking out of the dark room harder on the way out as it was very loud by that point making it hard to focus on what Claire was saying whilst dealing with worrying about tripping over and landing in someone’s soup.
Once we walked through the double set of curtains, the dim light from the bar down the corridor was extremely bright. As we walked down the corridor, blinking aggressively, our eyes struggled to adjust to being able to see again. We were greeted by another member of staff who asked us how we found it. He then showed us to a table so we could find out what we had eaten.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD – MENU MAY BE THE SAME IF YOU PLAN TO GO IN THE NEAR FUTURE
Whilst our eyes tried to get used to the light, we were asked how we thought the room was laid out. The member of staff told us how some people think the room is round, some rectangular and opinion often varies on the table layout too. I won’t reveal how it was laid out unless anyone reading this is planning on going soon – the menu may change but I doubt they will change their layout.
We began speaking about what we thought we ate beginning with the starter. We told the waiter we thought it might have been pheasant or another uncommon bird and he told us to think far more exotic. My friend look worried and her face was priceless when he told us we had actually eaten Zebra for our starter. He showed us the picture of what we had eaten and it looked incredible. It was almost a shame that people don’t get to see what their food looks like because the dishes are presented beautifully.
For our main we were told our three dishes had been beef bourguignon, duck breast and pork with an olive chutney on top. I was surprised as I have never enjoyed olives before but liked them when I didn’t know what they were. The dessert was a blackberry mousse with cinnamon poached pears which was my least favourite of the three courses we had.
After we had learnt what we had eaten we went to pay. The price is quite expensive however it is important to remember you are getting an experience as well as food. For the three course option it was £54 each and we all had a cocktail as well which costed roughly £10 each. Although it is quite pricey, the experience is definitely worth it. We had incredible food and got to try different flavours and meats we wouldn’t normally eat whilst getting a great 21st birthday experience my friend will never forget. If you are ever in London and want to do something completely out of the ordinary, go to Dans Le Noir if you aren’t afraid of the dark!