Would you dare walk through Borough Market... without being able to see? That's one of the challenges set by this year's London Without Limits Festival, organised by The Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB). The festival, which takes place this July, invites Londoners to experience what it's like to be blind in our city by organising blindfolded activities such as wine tasting, speed dating and dancing. Londonist's Silvia Baretta took up the challenge and tried a blindfolded food tasting at Borough Market. Here's how she fared:
The starting point of my tour is Borough Market's information office, where my partner Zoe and I pick up a map highlighting the stalls taking part in the festival. Blindfold in one hand — don't forget it! — and map in the other, I'm ready to kick off. It takes a while to work out the (slightly confusing) map and in the end we don't follow the route exactly as described — but we still have fun nonetheless.
Donning my blindfold, Zoe then guides me to the first stall Pâté Moi, where Michael serves me some delicious mushroom pâté on bread. This first tasting feels good, though I am slightly concerned I won't be able to get the food in my mouth! The paté tastes smooth, creamy and delicate — a perfect way to start. Further along, I try some stronger food: both at Jumi Cheese, where Thom offers me some delicious Swiss cheese and at Taste Croatia, where Mattea serves me different types of spicy Croatian salami. With the salami, it takes a moment for me to sense the texture before suddenly... an explosion of flavour! The spiciness of the meat invades my taste buds, the flavour much stronger and more defined, I'm certain, than it would have been if I'd been able to see the food.
Further on at Tartufaia Truffles I smell some precious Italian truffles. Even though I've smelled these before, without actually seeing them, it proves impossible for me to identify the pungent scent. After that, I have fun guessing what kind of juice I'm drinking at Chegworth Valley — and here I guess right (it's apple and beetroot!). But the flavour of different oils I taste at Oliveology proves very tricky. I only guess one correctly: fennel oil. The tour ends at Tea2You, where I sample different varieties of tea, and I have to admit that this is the hardest in terms of distinguishing between the flavours.
Initially, I was afraid of walking around the market without seeing where I was going and tasting something that I might really dislike. Luckily though, I survived the crowd and the food tasted superb. The experience is touching and fun at the same time. And playing with your senses in this way really makes you realise how your world changes when you can't see.
Take a friend and follow our example with a self-guided tour of the market: available every Thursday in July, between 2.30 and 4.30pm. If you prefer to have additional guidance, then book one of the free guided tours led by Borough Market's expert David Matchett on either Thursday 23 or 30 July, between 10.30 and 11.30am.
Londonist is proud media partner to London Without Limits.