Definition of date night
A prearranged occasion on which an established couple, especially one with children, go for a night out together.
It’s safe to say that my husband Matt and I, pre-children, would certainly have been described as bon viveurs. There wasn’t such a thing as ‘date night’, we just ate out about four times a week and drank far more than we should. However, this changed with the arrival of our first daughter and even more so when we added to our number with twins.
Dans le Noir
Nights out on our own are now few and far between so I was pretty chuffed when we got a voucher for Dans le Noir? restaurant in Clerkenwell, London (there are also ones in Paris, New York, Barcelona, St.Petersburg and Kiev) as a present. Dinner at Dans le Noir is in the total darkness, guided and served by blind people.
We started in a well lit bar area at the front. First off all your belongings go into a locker. NO MOBILE PHONE! I’d left the number of the restaurant with our babysitters, so I wasn’t panicking about the temporary loss of my iPhone. It was actually quite liberating.
A glass of Champagne and a Campari and Soda later and the concept had been explained to us and we had selected a menu from a choice of four: meat, fish, vegetarian and surprise. We opted to have the two courses paired with their chosen wine selections. I was expecting the ‘experience’ itself to overshadow the food, which I thought would be fairly standard fare. I was therefore slightly surprised to see the £42 price tag for starter and main.
After ordering, we were introduced to our guide Roberto. I was instructed to place my hand on Roberto’s shoulder and my husband did the same on my shoulder. We were then led through, behind the black curtain and into absolute pitch darkness. Immediately it sounded so loud inside and I thought there must be 100s of people there. It was communal seating and Roberto informed us that we were the last two on the end of a table of six. He also directed us towards our napkins, cutlery and wine glasses. We had no idea who we were sat next to and I spent the first few minutes thinking the man diagonal to me was actually speaking to me. I expected my eyes to adjust to the darkness, but they never did.
How was it?
I lost inhibitions at the same time as losing one of my senses; strangely, I really felt myself relax. I wasn’t preoccupied by how I looked and acted; wasn’t scrutinising others or messing about with my phone. It made me really focus on chatting to Matt and concentrate on what I was eating. An interesting date night, it would make an excellent first date as you really do focus on each other without distraction and you don’t feel self-conscious.
I really enjoyed the food and thought that I had guessed the majority of what
I was eating (it turned out I was right on some, but completely missed other things). The wine didn’t taste fantastic on its own but was very pleasant when accompanied by the food.
We called Roberto over when we’d finished and were led back into the light squinting, and with Matt wearing a hefty canteen medallion. We were then told what our menus had contained. I’ll keep the specifics of the food we had a secret. The surprise menu indeed had some very surprising choices, but all very nice. I discovered my palette wasn’t as educated as I imagined. The wines were both varieties I really like (and which I would drink on their own ordinarily), so I was shocked I hadn’t thought much of them until paired with the food.
We had a debrief about what we’d eaten and were shown how the food was presented. We were astounded to see how beautifully it had been displayed – obviously this had been lost on us. I immediately felt bad that at one point I’d picked up some of my food with my hands after I’d been chasing it unsuccessfully around my plate with my fork for some time!
We were buzzing from the experience and headed over to Giant Robot (now sadly departed) for some very expertly mixed cocktails. We rounded off the evening in the American Bar at The Savoy – an old haunt.