Blind World Magazine

United Kingdom.
Restaurant gives the sighted the chance to experience what it is like to lose one of their senses.

Jan 5 2006.
The Huddersfield Daily Examiner.

IN PARIS, the city of gastronomes, the concept has been embraced enthusiastically.

The restaurant Dans le Noir is packed every night and the owners are opening a similar establishment in London.

And despite the competition in the capital from Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White and a string of celebrity chefs, they are confident of success because they are that little bit different.

How different?

Well, let me not leave you in the dark any longer, unlike guests in the Dans le Noir.

They are led into a totally darkened room by a team of blind waiters and eat their meal in stygian blackness, unable to see the food that is put before them.

"Very nice, but I thought the soup was a bit thin," you might say, having just consumed the fingerbowl and washed your hands in the vichysois.

And who would dare move if you heard the waiter serve you and say: "Careful, sir. The plate is very hot."

Organisations for the blind applaud the restaurant. It has provided jobs for blind people and gives the sighted the chance to experience what it is like to lose one of their senses.

The restaurant uses a quote from William Shakespeare - "There is no darkness but ignorance" - which is a laudible sentiment, but I think a roomful of people suddenly cut off from all visual perception should be very good friends.

"Oooh. Not here, Richard. It's too crowded."

"It's not Richard. It's Frank. Is that you Rose?"

"No, it's Penelope."

"A rose by any other name ..."

"You can stop quoting Shakespeare, he got us into this in the first place, and in the second place, you can take your hand off my bottom."

There are those who mock this new idea of not being able to see what you are eating. Gourmet dining is to be enjoyed by sight as well as smell and taste, they say.

This is reducing fine food to a parlour game where the player is blindfolded, fed cat food on toast and identifies it as Beluga Caviar, they imply. Presentation is part of dining: pretty patterns with asparagus and dribbled dressing enhance the experience.

And they do have a point.

I have often admired the juxtoposition of colour, texture and topography between roast beef submerged in a lake of gravy watched over by a proud castle of Yorkshire Pudding on the slopes of the gentle mountain of pale white mashed potato edged by a green swathe of garden peas on a Sunday lunchtime.

My tastes, you see, are simple and I have long been puzzled by friends who are genuine gourmets and happily pay hundreds of pounds for fine dining while I am content with a 5 curry. I can see them trying Dans le Noir, if only to test their palates.

Not that eating in the dark is a new experience for many English connoisseurs of fine food.

Fish and chips are often eaten blind: out of the paper, red hot, late at night, while walking home, scorched fingers searching for a chip or a bit of cod.

My goodness, Marco Pierre White, top that for a culinary experience.

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