Definition of date night
A prearranged occasion on which an established couple, especially one with children, go for a night out together.
I think 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.
Nights out on our own are now few and far between – and probably now fall into the category of ‘date night’ – 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 my brother and his girlfriend, who were babysitting, 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’d also 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.
You seem to lose inhibitions at the same time as losing one of your senses, plus strangely I really felt myself relax. I wasn’t preoccupied by how I was looking and acting or scrutinising others around me, or messing about with my phone, which is a very bad habit of mine. It made me really focus on chatting to Matt and concentrate on what I thought I was eating. In fact, as well as an interesting date night, I think it would make an excellent first date as you really do focus on each other without distraction and you certainly wouldn’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 to say we had finished and were led back out into the light squinting, and with Matt wearing a pretty hefty canteen medallion. We were then told what both of our menus had contained. I’ll keep the specifics of the food that we had a secret. The surprise menu indeed had some very surprising choices on there, but all very nice. I discovered my palette wasn’t nearly as educated as I had imagined. The wines were both varieties that I really like (and which I would drink on their own ordinarily), so I was shocked that I hadn’t thought much of them until paired with the food.
As well as having a debrief about what we had actually eaten we were also shown how the food had been presented and were pretty astounded to see how beautifully it had been – naturally this had been lost on us – and 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!