Dans le Noir restaurant in Paris
The Dans le Noir restaurant is a completely unique and unusual concept where you dine in complete darkness, which gives you a totally different perspective and sensory experience of enjoying different tastes and textures.
A bit of history
Many people find it very hard to imagine what it would be like to lose one of your main senses and for many being blind is the worst one, and over the years pioneers such as Michel Reilhac have endeavoured to try and highlight this, by organising different events such as exhibitions, art performances and even temporary bars throughout Europe.
These experiences started to develop even further in France in cooperation with one of the main blind organisations called the Paul Guinot Foundation, where Michel Reilhac developed a programme for diners called the Le Gout du Noir, which generally translates to The Taste of Darkness, that the first non permanent restaurant was set up in 1999.
This was a resounding success and proved beneficial to companies for training purposes as well, in order to understand more about disabilities and how the blind can still be a part of business. Plus, without the need for sight, social experiences are completely different without the normal perceptions or inhibitions people have.
So, a few years later, the innovator Edouard de Groglie, along with the support of the Paul Guinot Foundation, funded the project for a restaurant where people would dine in the dark, and operated by the Ethik Investment group, the very first Dans le Noir restaurant was opened in Paris in 2004.
With the success of this first restaurant in Paris, another was opened in London, followed by one in Barcelona and then one in New York, which has now made Ethik Investment Group an international private company and they are continuing to expand on the idea to make people more aware. In addition to this, the group has expanded into organising different events all over the world along with opening spas, where you have a massage by a blind person, plus they conduct training for corporations and trained staff at Futuroscope in the Poitou Charentes region of France to set up an experience in the dark.
About the Dans le Noir restaurant in Paris
There is a lighted bar and lounge at the Dans le Noir restaurant where can enjoy a cocktail, wine or non alcoholic beverage, which is a great place to stop in a friendly atmosphere in between visiting some of the many tourist attractions in Paris.
This is open daily, and also where you would first enter so that your food order can be taken prior to the unusual dining experience, yet the dark dining room only accommodates 58 people at any one sitting.
The dining room has been designed with safety in mind and organised in such a way as to avoid accidents, but is also controlled by infrared cameras to monitor the room in case of emergencies.
Lockers are not just available, but are actually a requirement for all bags, coats, phones, etc and even your watch must be taken off or covered so as not to provide any type of light what so ever.
How it works..
You are advised to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your meal and entering the lit bar and lounge, you can enjoy a drink prior to your meal, whilst listening to the friendly staff on how the experience will go and what to expect.
This is the time when the Dans le Noir restaurant will ask you if there are any dietary requirements or things you do not like and you sort out your food order, but if you have very specific issues with certain foods such as allergic reactions, then it is advised that you discuss your requirements when booking. This is due to the fact that the menu its self is actually a surprise menu, so you do not know exactly what you will be eating and therefore you can truly experience different, tastes, textures and smells.
You are also recommended to visit the bathrooms prior to your meal, as obviously this can be very awkward during your unusual experience and then you are required to place belongs in a locker, but if you have truly high cost valuables then you can also arrange a dedicated even more secure safe as well.
The blind staff will act as your personal guides throughout the whole time, and the first thing is leading you into the dining room and getting you seated, then it is serving your food and drinks and helping you to pour a glass of wine or water, etc.
At the end of your dinner you will be led out by your guide back to the lit bar and lounge area and you are asked to look at the floor initially, so that your eyes can gradually adjust. Then you will look at pictures and the menu, along with discussing the wine, selecting what you think you have just eaten, this is when you can find if your other senses are anywhere near close!
Cuisine at Dans le Noir restaurant
As we mentioned above, the menu is a surprise menu, so that you have no preconceptions and can experience the French cuisine in a completely different way. And there are different alternatives to choose from along with special menus for French holidays like New Year, Valentines day, etc in addition to the Travel Days as they are called, which incorporate dishes from various countries.
You can opt for a two plate menu with either a starter and main course or main course and dessert, which is a cost of €43 as of 2013, then there is a three course option for €51. The gastronomic menu with an amuse-bouche followed by starter, then main course followed by two desserts also includes a glass of champagne and three glasses of wine for €79.
You will find that there are different items on the plate, but separated so you can discover the different flavours and textures, yet the menu is also always changing every couple of months with fresh seasonal produce, and of course you do not know what you will get served.
But on a previous menu at the Dans le Noir restaurant there were delights such as salmon tartare with capers, onions, pickles cream and lemon, a tomato and mozzarella cake and vegetables with a pesto sauce for starter. The main course included duck with fresh grapes, a mushroom risotto and a vegetable lasagne with zucchini, eggplant, peppers, garlic, basil, white sauce and cheese.
Access to Dans le Noir
The whole experience lasts one and a half hours and the first sitting is 7pm to 7.30pm, then the second sitting is 9pm to 9.30pm, but because there are a very limited number of seats, booking is highly recommended.
The Dans le Noir is located very close to the Pompidou Centre in the 4th Arrondissement, and is also only a short walk from the Tour Saint-Jacques or the River Seine where you can hop across to the Ile de la Cite island and discover the impressive Notre Dame Cathedral or other monuments in Paris.
And the nearest Metro station is the Rambuteau stop on line 11, but if you are travelling on the RER train then you would need the Chatelet - Les Halles stop in lines A, B or D.