September 14, 2010 / 10:08 AM / in 7 years

Table Talk: Blind restaurant an eye-opener for London diners

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Dining in a completely dark room, unaware what’s on your plate while sitting next to a complete stranger may not sound like an ideal restaurant experience but it’s certainly an intriguing way to spend a rainy night in London.

Dans le Noir?, close to London’s City financial district, is staffed by blind waiters and waitresses who become your eyes according to the restaurant, whose original Paris branch opened in 2004.

In the lit bar, you choose whether you want the fish, meat or vegetable menu but the dishes themselves remain a secret, as do the ingredients of the “surprise” cocktails.

Bags, coats and devices that light up, including watches and mobile phones, are stowed away in lockers, making no distracting texts or emails one of the perks in this restaurant.

Placing your hand on the shoulder of your guide, you are led to a table in a pitch-black dining room that seats up to 60 people. And it is dark. Darkness of a kind you never get to see in a modern world of light pollution.

Only once did we glimpse a square of faint light from a doorway and there were certainly no candles on the cake for a birthday at a table somewhere off in the inky blackness.

The waiters tell you when the food is being placed down in front of you, then the fun begins of first, trying to get food in your mouth, then identifying just what it is that’s on your plate, and finally whether you missed any of it.

It’s also a great chance to break free of social convention and eat using your fingers. Those same fingers are also the only way you can tell how much wine you’re pouring into your glass.

The convivial atmosphere in the dining room also made the night memorable.

You can’t really avoid talking to the person next to you at the long tables and guessing what the dishes are certainly provides adequate fuel for the conversations.

Having no idea what your interlocutor looks like, of their facial expressions or whether they’re waving their hands about to get their point across (until they poke you, that is) is a real eye-opener in terms of preconceptions too.

All is revealed at the end of the meal, as you are led back out into the lit bar, conga-style. Not only do you finally get to see what you’ve just been eating but also who you’ve been talking to for the last 90 minutes.

“An interesting place for a date?,” my friend quipped upon leaving.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan, editing by Paul Casciato

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