Arch outside the restaurant. Picture by Jess Fostekew.
“It’s pitch black, you can’t see a thing,” someone raved to me about a Dans Le Noir. “You don’t know what you’re eating until after, so it’s all about the food.’ Sold.
It’s in Farringdon, London’s media hub, aka Wanksville. Imagine the City but with turn ups and cocaine splattered beards. Who cared? We weren’t going to have to look at any of them. I wasn’t even worried about having to listen to them because I was with my dear friend Arch, who is infamous for the incredible length of her stories. She once left me a 14-minute voice message which just said ‘hello’.
The foyer was mysterious. We stored our bags and phones – and anything else that glowed – in gym lockers and chose our food. Sort of. You can either have the vegetarian, fish, meat or the ‘white menu’. The latter means you’re prepared to eat anything. If you’re going to do something you should do it properly – white it was.
We huddled into a line. It was like preparing to enter The Crystal Maze. Hand on the shoulder of the person on front, we did a polite conga into the abyss. You could see nothing. It made you realise how bright the night sky is in comparison. There was a hubbub of conversation and clatter, waiters shouting their way through a palpable tension.
We were seated opposite one another and introduced to the couple sat next to us: Bruce and Sarah. Arch and I reached out and clasped at each other, giggling like twats.
Already there was a pina colada. Giddy at having guessed what it was, we necked it. We had to shout to pick out each other’s voices in the rabble. I’d forgotten to tell Arch a pivotal fact! The waiters were all non-sighted. She bellowed: “How are the waiters doing it? They’ve got goggles or something, right?”
I whispered an urgent, desperate: “Shh. They’re blind.”
“Yeah right, fuck off.”
Bruce and Sarah went eerily quiet.
Starters arrived and cutlery wasn’t working, everything was missing our faces. We got our hands in. We decided it was gritty crabs and something fruity, maybe a pear. It was all very wet but not unpleasant, just weird. At the end of the night we learned it was ‘custard of crab with strawberries puree and alfalfa shoots’. Meh.
The menu, excuse the glare, it’s quite hard to take pictures in there.
Someone announced a birthday and the whole place started singing. Much like everything there, it was just like in a normal restaurant when that happens: cheesy and awkward. But with added painful intensity. There was so much going on the whole time, I’m not sure we ever really calmed down. Our wine arrived, it was both red and drinkable.
We had to strain so hard to focus just on what each other were saying, we assumed everyone else was doing the same rather than listening to us. So, gloriously, we ended up having one of our best catch ups in years. We couldn’t remember the last time we’d eaten together, just the two of us. Not since our teens had we eaten without our phones. In that sense, it was bliss.
Mains arrived and with due trepidation we got our already-sticky fingers ready. We talked each other through what we were tasting but we weren’t able to discern much.
“Yep that’s some sort of meat. Potato?”
“Ooo a peppercorn”
“I haven’t found my peppercorn”
“A different meat now. Bit more chickeny.”
“I found my peppercorn!”
We Hoovered it all and it tasted nice but I found myself keen to get the eating bit over with. I’ve always disliked having mucky hands and this was extreme. Even our faces were minging. How to describe the mains? Hot. Wet. Fine.
We later learned it was a medley of ‘Roasted springbok served with courgette and aubergine puree. Pan fried crocodile with duck fat roasted new potatoes and side salad. And pave of Ostrich on bed of roasted shallots and peppercorn sauce.’
All very exciting, but not as much as it would have been if I could have seen it. For a start I’d be able to tell you what a ‘pave’ is.
I belted out (too loudly): “I’m scared they’ve fed us human”
Poor Bruce and Sarah.
Pudding was white chocolate cheesecake. Next to it was a cold, damp and strawberry-ish patch, which we later learned was rhubarb jelly. Super sweet but delicious, as was the dessert wine which came by its side.
We were full, drunk and we’d had a new experience. Saying that, it had been about everything but the food.
Dans Le Noir
Address: 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0DU
Tel: 0207 253 1100
Monday-Thursday 12:30–3pm, 6:30–9:30 pm
Friday & Saturday 12:30–3pm, 6:30–10pm
Sunday 12:30–3pm, 6:30–8pm
Booking required: Yes, for a specific time.
Disabled Access: Yes, throughout.