Surprises in the Dark

Walking through the ancient streets of Clerkenwell at night is a good prequel to visiting ‘Dans le Noir’ in Clerkenwell where lovely food is eaten in complete darkness. After selecting a menu my partner and I were introduced to our waiter, himself registered blind, who guided and sat us at our table in pitch black restaurant buzzing with laughter and chat and then served us a delicious three course meal and wine.

I was nervous, not knowing exactly what to expect but when I thought about it, what was there to worry about? Perhaps I’d drop or break something, make a mess, spill some food down my front? In the event that I did, who was going to see it anyway and even if my culpability was obvious then it still didn’t matter as I wouldn’t see anyone else’s faces or non-verbal behaviour and I, in turn, could respond however I wanted. Maybe I was worried about the actual food? Well I’d already chosen according to my dietary regime and if something wasn’t to my liking who was going to see and disapprove of what I’d left on the plate? One last and relatively mild concern was that there might be someone in close proximity who was loud and/or offensive. Well, I thought to myself, that shouldn’t be a problem given the fact I was a football supporter, attended home games regularly and was no stranger to the occasional dysfunctional individual with temper management problems and a foul mouth.

On the plus side I was astounded by the way in which my other senses stepped up. Following the clear and very specific instructions of our guide I soon mastered the seating and table arrangement using hearing and touch particularly. Once the food was brought to us my sense of taste and smell was so heightened I pretty much worked out exactly what I was eating and savoured every mouthful. All that energy you expend in a sighted environment on monitoring your own and others’ behaviour is brought to bear on just eating and experiencing novelty.

Thinking back to that couple of hours in pitch darkness, I am still surprised at just how comfortable and relaxed it all was. Somehow time seemed to stand still and the sense of connection, first and foremost with my partner but also our guide and to a lesser degree, the couple of other diners seated alongside us was palpable. When our guide asked us if we were ready to leave in truth I wasn’t. I could have stayed just where I was and settled down, perfectly content to indulge in an after dinner snooze.

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