When I say dark I mean pitch black.
It’s not like when you turn off the light in the kitchen, you can still find your way there.
I am talking about going to a restaurant you’ve never seen and enter a very dark room, guided by a blind person.
I was chatting to a colleague about it, about the fact I was curious and wanted to try it out and he said oh why don’t we gather some friends and go all together? And so we did last night. The restaurant is called Dans Le Noir? and is located not far from Farringdon station. You need to book online but it wasn’t too difficult to find a table for our preferred date and time.
You can’t really tell much from the outside, the windows are covered with black curtains.
As soon as we got in, we meet one of the girls working at the reception (and how surprising was that I knew her cause we used to work together?) that asked us to lock away our bags, phones and anything that had lights like our watches.
We then picked our drinks since we already pre-ordered our meals. But let me say this right away: you get to choose your meat/veggie/surprise menu but you have no idea about what’s exactly in the plates. Trust is what you need.
The next step was being introduced to our blind guide, Fabio, who was going to take us into the room and be our waiter for the night. I was the first one in line and Fabio asked me to put my hand on his right shoulder and he asked that everyone did the same with the person they had in front of them… and then we went into the darkness.
The first impression was that you really need a big amount of trust because you’re following someone that you don’t know and you’re hoping he won’t let you bump into anything (of course not, he knows what he is doing!). The second impression was that the room was filled with a thick darkness that I haven’t experienced before. How weird, I though I knew what darkness meant!
Fabio then got us to our chairs, I managed to sit in a proper position and I soon realized we were not alone: it was a sharing table and 4 other people were sitting on my left hand side. We immediately started chatting, would this ever have happened in a lights on restaurant?
They were two girls (one of the two with a French accent) and two guys, all very nice and they were happy to share couple of tips with us – newbies on the table.
Fabio described what was on the table and I quickly touched my napkin, cutlery and glasses. Then someone else came around with water and wine.
You know, I thought I was pretty good in pouring drinks, I have years of experience in the catering industry so it shouldn’t be too complicated. Unfortunately, the darkness changes your prospective and you’re suddenly afraid to pour too much. In my case, I didn’t pour enough which just meant I had to pour drinks again and again, incasing the difficulty level.
But the fun part starts when you get the food. We were all trying to figure out what we had in the plate, was it duck? Was it balsamic dressing? Oh wait what’s this round thing here?
Not to mention when you think you got something on your fork and you don’t. So at some point it is clear that you will use your hands to touch what’s in the plate and to get some food to your mouth. I really tried to cut my meat with the cutlery, it didn’t work very well on the starter but I felt I was improving with the main.
I won’t spoil what’s in the dishes cause you will see it at the end of your meal but I can tell you how I felt during the evening.
As soon as we entered the room I have to say I panicked a bit: you’ve never experience that much darkness around you, you feel disorientated and you’re scared because you’re losing the confidence of the sight.
But then I slowly got used to it and my other senses started working harder: I was paying attention to sounds more, even the ones that are not so obvious. Half way through the night I could tell someone was walking behind me without them making any clear noises. Then of course the taste, I don’t know if you can taste it better but you definitely pay attention to what you’re eating and if not, you’re trying to smell what’s in the plate or your glass. I also have to say that being able to touch the items on the table, squeeze my friend’s arm and touch our guide’s hand made me feel more comfortable.
When I was younger I used to volunteer with disable kids. When I had to work with the blind ones I felt always so awkward and I could never understand why, till last night. The fact that someone has to squeeze my arm a lot made me uncomfortable, but now I understand that a blind person will find that reassuring.
One of my friends at the table asked us how long we think we could survive in that darkness. Someone else said not long, but I realised that there is plenty of people that live like that all day everyday.
How lucky am I to see? Even if I complain cause I am a -10 and I have to wear glasses. But seriously, what did I do to deserve the gift of sight and what did the other people do to not deserve it? Nothing really, these things are just as they are but this experience gives you a totally different prospective on life I believe.
Friends and people passing by reading this, go ahead and book your table at Dans Le Noir. Don’t be scared, be excited to have the chance to experience something new and be grateful because life is beautiful either with lights or darkness.
(Italian version will follow)