January 9, 2006.
Reuters.uk - UK.
LONDON (Reuters) - For Londoners it will be the ultimate blind date.
A French entrepreneur is opening a new restaurant where diners are served by blind waiters and eat their meal in pitch darkness.
Chefs used to creating flamboyant dishes that are a feast for the eye may mock -- and indeed some already have.
But Edouard de Broglie is convinced he is on to a winner with "Dans Le Noir" (In The Dark) which opens in London next month.
Exporting a formula he launched in Paris with his first dining-in-the-dark restaurant, de Broglie believes it is a perfect way to savour food by just using the taste buds.
He is currently hiring 10 blind people as waiters who will lead diners into the darkened room for a blind tasting with a difference.
Customers are guided in from a normally lit bar where they pick what they will eat. In Paris, 80 percent of the clients opt for the surprise menu.
"A lot of people make huge mistakes in the dark. They confuse tuna and veal," De Broglie said.
Project manager for the London restaurant is Nicolas Chartier who said: "The experience is a bit daunting when you first approach it.
"But the waiters are there to reassure customers. They are the best people in the dark. This is their world. They are very confident in it."
But what of the clients? Will the London restaurant manage to break down traditional British reserve?
De Broglie is convinced "Les Anglais" will abandon their stiff upper lips.
"In darkness you don't have any etiquette. It is very difficult not to talk to your neighbour in the dark. The atmosphere is very convivial," he said.
For the thousands who have visited the Paris restaurant in the last 18 months, the experience has offered valuable insight into the world of the blind.
"If you cannot understand such a handicap, this breaks down barriers. Putting yourself in the hands of a blind person for two hours raises your awareness of disability," he said.
But what does it feel like to eat in the dark as you grope for your knife and fork and try not to knock your wine glass over?
"The world felt both infinite and claustrophobic," decided Britain's Independent on Sunday. "Our taste buds were aroused but they were confused. After an hour and a half, we were desperate to return to the people and colours outside."
Award-winning chef Marco Pierre White, who has a string of popular London restaurants, has been scornful of the idea.
"For me, the eyes must be used as well as the palate. It's all part of the show," he said. "It is not fine dining. But I guess it saves a few pounds on electricity."
But de Broglie is unconcerned, arguing: "You have to try it and then see if it is a gimmick. People realise the truth in the dark."
Source URL: http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=2006-01-09T100551Z_01_SIB936369_RTRIDST_0_OUKOE-UK-BLIND.XML.
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