To call Dans le Noir 'high concept' dining would be an understatement. Basically the idea behind the restaurant (which opened in the past week after the success of a Paris version) is that you eat in the pitch black in order that your senses will be heightened, and your taste buds will be liberated.
You can't see what you're eating, who you're eating it with, and anything that might illuminate proceedings (phones, lighters, infrared googles) are banned .
All the waiters are blind or partially sighted and as well as bring you food and wine they will also escort you to the toilets if you need to go (presumably there's a light in the toilets).
So what do the critics make of it?
Richard Alleyne in the Telegraph actually comes to bodily harm before he's eaten anything:
My dining companions were Jill, Saffron, Sophie and Simon. All seemed exceptionally nice though I had no idea what they looked like. I accidentally patted Sophie on the head trying to find where she was sitting and she returned the compliment by poking me in the eye.
Things do improve though, as the darkness allows people to shed their inhibitions: "With the absence of eye contact and shyness, the room soon filled with conversation and laughter. It became so loud that one of the waiters ordered people to lower their voices." But then it's on to the food:
At first I thought my starter was pasta before deciding it was smoked salmon. For the main course I was convinced I was eating moussaka with lamb or beef mince. Later I discovered it was fish. The dessert was easy, I thought, pears in a raspberry juice. It turned out to be apples with ice cream. Our taste buds may have been aroused, but they were confused. After an hour and a half, we were desperate to return to the light.
Verdict: Divided, "enjoyed it, though it won't be replacing my local Italian," and "interesting but I am not so sure enjoyable. You have to ask why do people want to experience being blind?"
Liane Katz from the Guardian is asking for trouble by dining with a pregnant friend but does ok after some initial nervousness:
Now I'm not claustrophobic, but I admit to having felt slightly sick as we were led through the thick black curtains and encouraged to grope for our chairs. All the table-top apparel was right in front of us - somewhere. But which was the wine glass and where on earth was the bread?
Much awkward giggling and self-conscious conversation followed and I wondered what on earth it would be like to hold a true blind date here. As we fumbled around attempting to pour out the water and tuck into the bread we gradually got our bearings, but we did constantly pick up each other's glasses. One colleague had suggested I bring a bib along and I was beginning to think he might have a point.
Katz definitely beats Alleyne when it comes to sensitivity of the taste buds though: "Dessert was a lovely apple tarte tatin accompanied by a mysteriously fragrant ice cream. Could it be mint or eucalyptus? I couldn't place it and would never have guessed lavender, but was happy enough using a pincer technique of spoon and fingers to get it to my mouth."
Verdict: Good, "Undoubtedly provides a novelty dining experience but I was glad I had submitted to the challenge. I had a far greater appreciation of lives led permanently in the dark, but had also had a delicious meal."
View London have got a review of the restaurant on their site which is very favourable. They like the 'Blitz-style camaraderie' which the darkness fosters and like everyoen else opt for the ' blind menu' which is 'the most fun':
Once the initial disorientation has worn off and you're a little more at home you start to notice how intense flavours become; strawberries, for instance, become the most strawberryish things you could possibly imagine - strawberries in stereo, as one fellow-diner had it. The main difficulty lies in knowing when you've finished everything on your plate.
Verdict: excellent, "it's the closest you can come to a total brain reboot without taking some serious Class A drugs. It's exhilarating, exhausting, and everybody should do it once."