Dans le Noir

Dans Le Noir is a restaurant that serves food in the dark:

Experience the unique interaction between clientele and guides as your food and wine are served in total darkness. Awaken and train your senses as you enjoy the tastes, aromas, flavours and textures of our exquisite creative cuisine.

I like the idea of my senses being awakened. It sounds vaguely erotic. So I book a table.

The Restaurant in the dark. In the dark.

The first thing you notice when entering Dans Le Noir are the reviews. In the manner of all good high street curry houses, the walls are lined with the framed excerpts of favourable reports, in this case a series of searingly pretentious quotes proclaiming the restaurant’s lack of pretension. It’s not a good start, and neither is the wine list, which features both roman alphabet and braille listings. This is a nice touch, except that the Braille is printed on the page, not embossed. In other words, a blind person couldn’t read it.

After ordering a bottle of wine in the well-lit bar, we select our meals. One can choose either specific courses from the a la carte menu, or asked to be ‘surprised’ for a few pounds more. Given that every review I’ve seen of the restaurant leads me to the conclusion that the surprise choices are taken from the same menu as the non-surprise selections, I opt for the former: three tastes of foie gras start the ball rolling, fricassae of chicken in riesling sauce, smoked potato mash, buttered leeks and vegetable crisps provide the bulk of the meal, while chocolate truffle pavé and Baileys ice cream round everything off. Sounds lovely.

And then it’s into the darkness. We meet our ‘guide’ (they’re not called waitresses, of course) and are led, though a series of thick black curtains, into the dining room where, like it says on the tin (printed in braille, no doubt), it’s absolutely pitch black. You have no idea where your fellow diners are sitting, how many are at the table, how big the room is, or indeed if the guy in the next seat has stripped naked and is rubbing asparagus spears into his groin. It’s genuinely disconcerting. Pouring wine becomes a Krypton Factor-style test of nerve and dexterity, and despite inserting three fingers into the glass to gauge the level, I still manage to soak the tablecloth. Luckily enough no-one can see this, of course, although our guide notices straight away. Pretty soon our first course arrives.

Three tastes of fois gras

It’s not easy, guiding foie gras into your mouth when you can’t see it, the cutlery or your plate, and pretty soon I’ve abandoned any kind of manners and am shovelling the stuff onto my fork with my fingers, scrabbling round the plate to locate any stray morsels. If you could see it, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight. But you can’t, so it probably doesn’t matter.

Fricassae of chicken in Riesling sauce, smoked potato mash, buttered leeks and vegetable crisps

It’s about this time that I begin to get suspicious of the entire experience. A fricassae is either poultry or meat cut into pieces and stewed in gravy, but why has it been chosen for the menu? I suspect the answer has little to do with culinary adventure and everything to do with texture. It’s mushy, so is the mash, the leeks are soft and the vegetable crisps are nothing of the sort. The starter was pretty much the same, and the desert that follows is also a single-texture non-event. I suspect that the restaurant’s keenness to avoid performing Heimlich maneuvers in pitch darkness has something to do with this, so everything has the texture of baby food.

Dans Le Noir is a truly interesting experience in sensory deprivation, but the grub is underwhelming and bland. The restaurant would probably argue that because you’re denied sight, your other senses compensate and you appreciate the food in new and pleasurable ways, but this simply isn’t true: your senses are jumping all over the place, trying to adjust to an environment they’ve not experienced before, and it becomes altogether impossible to concentrate on the flavour.

In the end, this is probably what the restaurant want: the food is indubitably poor and the waitress guide claims to “know nothing about wine” when queried about getting a new bottle. The experience is the event, the food is very much an afterthought, and the fact of the matter is that many punters will be so wrapped up in the former that they neglect to notice the impotence of the latter.


  1. I laughed out loud at the first “dark” picture. Writing lol wouldn’t have done it justice.
    Was it as pricey as it was pretentious?

  2. I laughed out loud too. What a shame about the food.

    Its one of those places you kind of guess would end up being all about the gimmick, but hope it isn’t.
    And having the menu in printed braille is appalling. It turns the whole thing into an embarrassing theme restaurant.
    I once did a project with the RNIB. They were talking about restaurant experiences which included: in braille ‘see board for specials’ and also the name of the restaurant *over the top ofthe door* in giant braille. How is anyone supposed to reach that?

    Shame… makes you wonder what the pointof this restaurant is…

  3. I wonder if the waiters have to go on courses to completely memorise the room so they dont go bashing into all the tables..

  4. stunning food photography!

  5. you made my day. I loughed out loud and I knew, you would bring more black fotos.
    I want to go to a restaurant in nearby frankfurt and hope the food is better. I’ve been to a bar in the dark and it was very interesting to hear the voices of all my colleagues in the room.

  6. Phenoptix – it was £34 for the three courses. Wine was extra.

  7. Not cheap then, but not madly pricey for London. What sort of chef wants his creations served where they can’t be seen, good food isn’t just about flavour, it’s about presentation and impact on the eye, er, unless you’re blind of course.

  8. Bingo. My thoughts precisely. Good food should excite all the senses, not just taste. Apart from hearing. I’m not sure if that matters so much.

  9. I’m looking forward to your next receipe here at blogjam’s. hope you serve it in the dark for your friends. and for the hearing: you could sing in the dark….mp3, please!

  10. Food can be enjoyed aurally, Fraser, as my daughter has demonstrated to me, often.

  11. One thing you didn’t mention was that the portions seemed incredibly small – one reason I ended up scrabbling around my plate with my fingers was that I was hunting for the rest of the food.

    I’m convinced my “3 tastes of foie gras” as actually only 2 tastes. Unless my third fell off somewhere, I think I was sold short.

  12. £34 isn’t bad, infact very reasonable, but the nursing home textures would really put me off. YS is quite right that eating is also a visual experience, when I ate at Michael Caines in Exeter every plate was beautiful and it was nice to be able to look at the pretty girl I went with too.
    I wonder if it looks like a canteen with the lights on in there?! Still might be worth trying as a giggly night! I have an image in my mind of the guides wearing night vision goggles…

  13. It wouldn’t help – the guides are actually blind.

  14. I went there last month. It is a shitty overpriced rip-off. I spilt wine all over the table, my food and my lap and acidentally groped some moany bitches tit. They could of been serving me any old shit and probably were. P.S very true fraser – you dont print brail…… twats.

  15. Of course, the management are filming everything on night vision cameras and are totally raking it in after cutting a deal with the makers of “You’ve Been Framed”.

  16. Frazer

    My childhood would have been shit without the ‘snap, crackle and pop’ of Rice Crispies. Bet they read this and put them on the menu.

  17. Having seen Minority Report, I don’t think I could eat ANY food served to me without being able to see exactly what it is I’m eating!!!

    Totally agree with Scaryduck – there’s infrared cameras and the owner is sitting in another room pissing himself laughing at the behaviour of the diners.

  18. “Apart from hearing. I\’m not sure if that matters so much.”
    Usually no, but there are some examples. Like the sizzling hot plate you can hear before it even gets to your table – or someone else’s table for that matter. That’s a guaranteed way to get me salivating. That and when the bloke with the beard over there rings that bell. I wish he’d stop doing that.

  19. How do you get the light just right in the photos? I think you should be a bit more suspicious regarding food the cook won´t show you…

  20. I agree completely. The food has almost nothing to do with the experience – having over-excited conversations with the other guests who’s voices emerge from the ether as if you’re talking to them on the phone is truly hilarious.
    The food is almost a distraction, and I, having ordered the surprise menu, couldn’t tell what the Hell I was eating. I still have no idea, and don’t really care.
    I’m going back in July though…booked it today. It really is an experience and a good old laugh.
    But spare a thought for the cleaners….imagine the mess at the end of the evening!

  21. All the waiting staff are blind or have impaired vision, AFAIK.

  22. …which makes the printed braille menus even more biazrre.

  23. In London there are a lot of restaurants, and one that has opened is called Dans le Noir, a Parisian food restaurant that serves its food with no lights. As in total, cave-like darkness. The Blogjam Fraser Lewry has a report of his experiences trying out this unique place:

  24. This has got to be one of the funniest restaurant reviews I’ve read in a long time. I nearly wet myself laughing at the thought of trying to eat in pitch darkness!

    Guess there must be some small print somewhere (probably in printed braille) that absolves the restaurant from all charges of assault, personal injury and large dry cleaning bills….

  25. There is a review of the restaurant in today’s Observer Magazine. Haven’t read it through yet but the critic doesn’t appear to be too enthralled…

  26. I had seen this advertised, and wondered about whether it was either about some crap chef looking to get the more pretentious interested in his food by creating a dark place to eat food, or some genious chef with a new slant on eating out… it’s a shame it appears to be the former – indeed, a restaurant with bad food is no better than macdonalds…

  27. I’m bored of this feature now. Put something else up.
    Have you met Hugh FW yet? Has he put a restraining order on you yet?

  28. I’ve been to this “Dans le noir” restaurant last week with my girlfriend. I really had a good time there. The food was OK but and the concept was amazing. I was looking for an original restuarant in London and I had a good surprise becasue this is something so unusual. According to me most of the restaurants are the same in London.
    Moreover this is a really romantic restaurant….
    I think I will come back

  29. The concept was amazing, but the execution was really sloppy. When I went I noticed the printed braille menu, and although the staff were good and the experience interesting I expected the advertised ‘fine dining in the dark’ – and that includes knowing about wine and serving food when the customer wants it rather than when the kitchen thinks you’re ready for the next course.

  30. Yeah, it’s too bad that it’s more of a spectacle than an experience. It sounded like such a good idea. Then again, lots of things do.

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