Date Night #9: Dans-ing in the Dark
Ah date night. That wonderful night when you forget about the daily grind, the minutiae of Mondays, and remind yourself what a privilege it is to be travelling through life with someone special at your side. This one took place Dans Le Noir, in Clerkenwell…
So this was a special week, as my girlfriend V. and I hit our three-month anniversary. Now three months might not sound that impressive, but in the world of dating, three months means everything. See I have this theory that all relationships have natural break points that slowly get spaced out further and further as time goes on. Many first dates, for example, go no further than that. Then you have the two-week shuffle, where you see someone two or three times before one of you decides that it’s not quite right (or simply gets a better offer). But once you’ve run that gauntlet, you then have to start slaloming though the relationship break points. One month. Three months. Six months. One year. Two years. Five years. Eight years. Ten years.
The three-month break point is particularly fragile. By this time, you’ve probably met most of their friends, had an awkward meal with their parents where you had to explain what a Fleshlight was (possibly just me), and move them into your house (again, probably just me).
The general vibe of the three-month break point is “So we’re definitely going to try and make a proper go of this then?” And this discussion, like clockwork, reared up this week on WhatsApp, when V. asked me if I was still happy, and I replied “Of course!” She then called me a horse pervert (it’s a very long story that involves an ill-advised purchase of some bed sheets covered with a pattern of galloping horses) and sent me a load of kissy emoticons.
With the break point conversation seemingly dealt with, we decided to celebrate with a meal at Dans Le Noir, the world famous eating in the dark restaurant experience. Now in a London culinary scene that’s obsessed with the latest gimmick (This week it’s gourmet school dinners) Dans Le Noir, which first opened in 2006, is positively archaic. In fact, it’s been around so long, it’s been spoofed in a Richard Curtis movie. That’s how old hat Dans Le Noir is.
But the idea of dining in the dark is still such a unique experience, it’s managed to make the leap from novelty restaurant to beloved tourist attraction, and thus, when we arrived at six thirty on a Monday evening it was unexpectedly packed.
Or at least it sounded like it was anyway. For all we know the room could have been filled with the kitchen staff shouting “Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb” to each other.
Anyway, when you get there, you pick your mystery menu (you can choose between meat, fish, vegetarian, or ‘Special’ options) and let them know about any allergies or things you don’t like. I had the meat, and V. went with the special option, because she is. You’re then taken to your table by your blind or partially sighted waiter, who in our case was the beyond lovely Trevor. Of course, when he arrived to take us in, I put out my hand for him to shake (which he obviously couldn’t see) because I am an idiot. We then put our hands on each other’s shoulders and performed the conga line of the blind into the dark dining area.
The first thing you realise, is that it’s dark. I mean pitch black, windowless interior hotel room dark. I remarked upon this to V., who just said “Well duh.” And then gave me a withering look. At least, I assume she did.
The conversation was surprisingly intimate – there’s something about the dark that drops your defences completely. My sister told me that when she visited Dans Le Noir, she ended up flirting outrageously with a male gay friend, something that had never happened when they’d hung out in regular venues. Maybe it’s because it’s the closest thing to the pillow talk you have after lights out.
Our food arrived, and my starter was what seemed like pork fillets on a chard salad, with a sweet chutney. V.’s seemed to be a fisherman’s pie. Neither of us were quite brave enough to risk forking ourselves in the eye, so we went with fingers, which mostly worked. Both starters were well paired with white wines, and it’s only just occurring to me now that we managed to avoid knocking over or spilling anything throughout the entire meal, something we rarely manage in a restaurant where we can actually see.
After our starter, we were joined at our table by two strangers, Louise and Taylor. The proximity and nervousness of the dark resulted in a four-way conversation that never would have happened at a regular restaurant. They were lovely, but I have to admit, I was a bit sad the intimacy of the first course was lost. Or at least I was until V. used the cover of darkness to deliberately poke her finger up my nose. I swear they’re missing a trick by not letting you buy the night vision videotape of your meal afterwards.
The main course was served on what can only be described as a toddler’s plate, with different foods appearing in different segments of the plate. Mine was mainly meat, but after wolfing down some beefy meat, V. was a bit disturbed to find a large pile of fatty lumps on her plate. She took a bite, then insisted I try one. “That’s scallops!” I said. “Oh,” said V. “I’m allergic to scallops. I forgot to mention.” Instantly I had a flashback to one of my all time worst dates, but fortunately V. didn’t start projectile vomiting. All told, we thought the food didn’t feel as exotic as we’d expected it to be.
By this point I was beginning to see things in the dark that weren’t there, and my eyes were working furiously to make sense of the void. By the time pudding arrived (trifle?), we were ready to get out of the darkness, forgoing our after dinner coffee altogether.
Louise and Taylor left at the same time, and we were surprised to discover they were 10 years younger than us, rather than 10 years older as we’d imagined. We then played a fun game with the waiter, as he asked us what we thought we’d eaten and then shown us pictures of the actual food. Turns out my pork was actually zebra, and V. Was surprised to discover her beef was crocodile.
“See, it wasn’t as black and white as you’d thought!”
“Yours was though,” she laughed. “Also, I can’t believe I ate crocodile!”
“Ah well, that’s your fault for asking the waiter to make it snappy.” She laughed, I gave her a hug, and we walked out together into the light.
If you’d like to experience Dans Le Noir for yourself, you can book on their official website. Menus start at £44 a head.
Jon Hamblin writes ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women”, an award winning blog that details his frequent failures to impress any women ever. Read about his other Date Nights here.
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