This exhilarating experience has been written by Seema Latif with input from Lubna Agha.
Dans La Noir!! A unique experience, of literally; ‘in the dark’ … an incredible idea, created not only for dining but as insight into the lives of the sightless. Our waiter, Roberto, was cheerful, jolly and blind. Yes! A restaurant, in the heart of London city, where all the waiters are blind and this is what the clients are meant to experience. We were led into the restaurant by Roberto in a single file, right hand on the right shoulder. Since it was my daughters 19th birthday, we let her be the first in line behind Roberto. Ok, I admit, we were all scared so we pretended we were doing her a favour by letting her go before us. My first reaction was one of utter panic. I wanted to turn around and run out and I would have, but for all practical purposes I was blind. The darkness was terrifying. The restaurant was in pitch darkness, we were in the hands of a blind person, but the confidence he exuded soon calmed me down. The dependency on another person, because, at that time, my world was in sheer darkness made me realise, really realise what it must be like to live in total darkness for ever. Roberto was so deft that I don’t, even once, remember groping to find my way around. Once we sat down I relaxed a bit. Roberto assured us that all we have to do is call out his name and he will be there, and he never let us down.
The whole idea behind this experience is to understand how your other senses take over when the sense of sight eludes you. We don’t realise how our eyes are part of the whole eating experience. Our sense of smell got accentuated and our taste buds sharpened. Even the sense of hearing got very sensitive. I am pretty sure the restaurant was not very large but it was very noisy, not in a bad way, everyone seemed to be talking louder than normal as if their lack of sense of sight had to be compensated by loud voices.
A choice of set menu was available. Between the five of us we had a variety of menus but Roberto delivered impeccably . “Vegetarian”? Me! “Sea food” Me! “Meat” Me! All fell into place like clock work. I was not too crazy about what was on my plate, also couldn’t decipher what all was on it!, and the things we could figure out were hard to get to, for obvious reasons !!! But hey! You go there for the experience, and believe me when I say experience, it IS an experience! I couldn’t figure out what I was eating, leave alone how I was eating. Cutting my food and putting it in my mouth and realising the fork was actually empty. Other times I would manage to get the food on the fork but when it reached my mouth the prongs were facing upwards and the food would almost go into my nose. Once we started enjoying the experience, we all had a good laugh. I wish there was a hidden camera so we could have seen how we all had managed.
Wine was served in short glasses, the trick to pouring wine without spilling: put your finger inside the glass, start pouring and stop when your finger can feel the liquid. How neat is that! We were “blind” for a good one and a half hours, till Roberto let us out the same way he brought us in, in single fine. I have to admit that by the end some of us were quite comfortable with the feeling while some felt they could have done without the SOS.
Once we were outside, we were shown our menus and what we ate. Embarrassingly, I couldn’t guess half of what I ate, but I am sure I was not alone in this situation, alarmed to know that I had just eaten crocodile meat too !!!!!
A must visit, at lease once, for the experience.
I would give the food about 2 out of 5 stars but experience wise it was 5 out of 5.
In the end all I can say is that since my visit to Dans La Noir, I wake up every morning and thank god that I can see the light of day.
Seema Latif lives in London, an avid baker and budding artist, you can see her culinary creations on http://signaturecupcakes.wordpress.com.