If you’re after a completely novel experience, and one which will challenge the senses, Dans Le Noir in Clerkenwell may be just what you’re looking for.
In fact, looking is the one thing you won’t be doing there: as the name suggests, this restaurant offers you the chance to dine in the dark before enjoying a beverage in the Silent Bar, all the while being served by a slick team of fully or partially blind and deaf waiting staff. This unique concept, which originated in Paris, forces you to rely on particular senses and experience heightened sensory compensation, making for a delectably different dining and drinking experience.
On entering the restaurant, front of house staff warmly greeted us and talked us through the menu before leading us into the darkness. The menu, split into four set surprise meals, offered choices of meat, fish, vegetarian or vegan, and an additional ‘exotic’ option of a meat/fish combo. We were already delving into the unknown so the latter felt like a must: we took the plunge and were left in the hands of our waiter, Trevor.
With our phones and possessions stowed away in a locker, Trevor guided us to our table and within minutes we were seated with a tumbler of wine in hand. Understandably no wine glasses were involved throughout the evening nor was any etiquette. All guests dine on sharing tables so we soon discovered we were not alone. This would typically be an awkward encounter but inhibitions disappeared and the darkness brought us together.
It was particularly difficult communicating without being able to rely on facial expressions or body language but using knives and forks was no doubt the hardest to master so our hands took over. Without giving away too many details of what the surprise menu involved, we managed to use our remaining senses to realise it was a concoction of two types of fish. It was slightly too creamy for my liking but it was washed down with a deliciously sweet gin-based cocktail.
The mains followed and once again, we correctly identified the fish with the more exotic meat being much harder to determine. The dessert was very flavoursome but was difficult to pin point with its biscuit base, creamy centre and zesty aftertaste.
Soon after we were taken into the adjacent Silent Bar bar for coffee, which also happened to be the big reveal of all our courses (please note, we’re unable to reveal their current surprise menu and all photography is from their previous one).
The Silent Bar gave our eyes a chance to slowly adjust to reality but conversation suddenly came to a halt when we were given headphones to block out our surroundings. A bartender came over to teach us how to order different drinks and learn other useful phrases using sign language. As a result, we successfully ordered a round of espresso martinis and toasted to our entertaining evening with the other couple we finally had sight of.
We came out of the whole experience wanting to repeat it all over again. It was interesting how the other senses were sharpened when either sight or sound was no longer involved. Our waiter and the bar staff were so seamless in their approach that their impairments were soon forgotten about. They made the experience for us and we’d strongly recommend it.