Blind waiters in a pitch-black restaurant: the toast of Paris diners comes to town

Does eating a meal in total darkness make your food taste better? London will soon be able to find out

We have been treated to bacon-and-egg ice-cream and the £100 pizza, but the latest culinary experiment on offer to British diners will have them rubbing their eyes in disbelief. For it is a blind tasting like no other.

Despite a bizarre approach to haute cuisine, the restaurant Dans le Noir has won over Parisian diners, and next month it opens in London. Guests will be led to a pitch-black dining room and served food that they cannot see. Guiding them will be a team of 10 blind waiters.

A clamour for tables is expected when the restaurant starts to take bookings this week, for Dans le Noir is being hailed as a crucible for the culinary craze of 2006.

It has already sparked a debate over the role of sight when it comes to eating. Those supporting the dining-in-the-dark concept, including charities for the blind, say it will open up diners' other senses and liberate their tastebuds.

Traditionalists, on the other hand, insist that looking at a stunning creation before eating it is a fundamental part of haute cuisine.

Edouard de Broglie, the man behind the British venture after launching the Paris restaurant, said his interest was in the sensory, not the social aspect of dining.

"The preconception of what food tastes like because of how it looks is gone," he said. "All your other senses are abruptly awoken and you taste the food like you have never tasted it before."

But other top chefs were scathing. Marco Pierre White, who has opened a string of London eateries and was the youngest chef to be awarded three Michelin stars, said: "For me, the eyes must be used as well as the palate. It's all part of the show.

"And seeing top waiters in action is a key element of the service. I think this is conceptual more than real. It is not fine dining. But I guess it saves a few pounds on electricity.

"Part of a wonderful dining experience is seeing Mother Nature's creations on a plate. I think the critics will have a field day."

Other novelties that have seduced metropolitan diners in recent years include a £100 pizza topped with white truffle shavings at Gordon Ramsay's Maze Restaurant in London. And Heston Blumenthal impressed critics with incredible creations such as bacon-and-egg ice-cream and snail porridge at the Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, voted the world's best restaurant last year.

Mr Blumenthal said he was interested in trying out blind dining. "I will have to give it a go," he said. "But I don't think we are ever going to get to the point where people will be flocking to restaurants in the dark."

Yet Dans le Noir, which opened in Paris more than a year ago, remains packed most nights, serving three courses for £39 per person, without wine.

The Independent on Sunday visited it last week to discover what the attraction of eating under cover of darkness is.

We made our choices from the menu before shuffling into the blacked-out room in single file, hands placed on the shoulder of the person in front.

Immediately, the world felt both infinite and claustrophobic, as we found our seats. But with a gentle reassuring touch, the waiter, Benoit, explained that there was a napkin, knife and fork and an unbreakable glass on the table. Then he disappeared.

You cannot signal your waiter, but calling his name brings him to back to your side. Soon, the food arrived. With our hands, we discovered that the vegetables and scallops had been neatly presented, which all seemed rather pointless.

The pudding - chocolate fondant and ice-cream, apparently - left us perplexed. It could have been anything mousse-like. Our tastebuds may well have been aroused, but they were confused. After an hour and a half, we were desperate to return to the people and colours outside.

But the owners of Dans le Noir are confident that it will be a huge success in the UK. And it has already won praise from the Royal National Institute for the Blind and Action for Blind People for creating jobs for the blind.

The chef, his team of three, and a handful of front-of-house staff can see. But the 10 waiters are all officially registered blind, and have been subjected to a rigorous training regime.

Nicolas Chartier, project manager of the London branch, insisted that diners would have nothing to fear from blind waiters carrying hot dishes.

"It may seem, at first, a recipe for disaster, but the waiters are highly skilled," he said. He added that diners would learn about life as a blind person. "The waiters show us what it is like to experience their world," he said.

"When you cannot see, you depend on the waiter to guide you, so a special relationship develops between customers and the blind. It makes you rethink everything."

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Cover Supervisors Urgently Required In Knowsley **

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Java developer - (Intershop Enfinity)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Java Developer...

School Office/ Finance Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Ilford: School Office/ Finance Assistant Long t...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album