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Dans le Noir

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by Adam Millward (subscribe)
London-based writer with incurably itchy feet always looking for the quirky and curious
Published June 17th 2010
From restaurants boasting Michelin stars to TV chefs, London offers some of the finest dining experiences in the world. It also offers some of the most unusual and that's where Dans le Noir? comes in. Scared of the dark? Then this restaurant won't be for you because aperatif to dessert, you dine in pitch blackness here.

Though admittedly, this concept is not a London born one. Originating in Paris in 2004, the franchise has since grown into a massively successful international phenomenon with establishments in Montreal, New York, Zurich, Barcelona and Moscow to name just a few. However, London's restaurant is believed to be the largest of its kind in the world, seating 60 in the main dark dining room.

It is a fascinating concept, centred not just on a 'novel night out' but on raising awareness for blindness, a condition that's so often shrouded by stereotypes and misconceptions. With all the waiting staff being blind, a meal at Dans le Noir? can be just as much an enlightening education as it can a sensory rollercoaster. Giving other senses a chance to take centre stage in place of sight for one or two hours, the restaurant itself presents a meal there as '[an opportunity] to completely re-evaluate the notion of taste and smelling through [y]our gastronomic and pedagogical process.' Okay, so it might have got a little carried away with its own premise, but it doesn't detract from what remains a unique culinary experience.

You start off in a well-lit bar, before proceeding to a locker area to stow away any light-emitting gadgets - bye bye lighters/mining helmets/phones (making this the ideal eatery for haters of mobile bleeping/conversations while dining out). The food is fairly diverse, with separate menus dedicated to Meat, Seafood, Vegetarian cooked in a generally French Cuisine style with a contemporary twist (think ice cream with your soup). For the really adventurous, there's the choice of 'surprise menus', which are recommended to 'fully immerse yourself in Dans le Noir?'.

This won't be everyone's cup of tea. For some it will smack of pretension. Others will argue a meal is as much about feasting with the eyes as it is the mouth. But for those looking for something different, a bit of fun, a tiny glimpse into the world of blindness, the perfect 'blind date' location - or indeed all of the above - then Dans le Noir? might just be London's darkest (best-kept) secret...

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Why? For a unique dining experience
When: Mon-Sat 6.30pm-Midnight
Where: 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU
Cost: Surprise menu, 2 courses - 39, 3 courses - 44
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