So back in April, I was invited by Sacred Hill Wines at Dans Le Noir? to have dinner in the dark. I know it’s been a while but I couldn’t talk about it straight away until the menu changed in May. I really wanted to share my experience and in case you were wondering what it’s like to taste food without your vision. If you’re curious, continue down below.
Dans Le Noir? is in the Rydges Hotel in the city. It started back in 2003 in France and I think it has been in Auckland for over a year. Auckland is the first city in the pacific to have this dining in the dark concept.
I didn’t really know much about Dans Le Noir before this evening. However, I soon found out that it is in partnership with The Blind Foundation. Our guide and servers are visually impaired or blind. I found this really fascinating as the roles are reversed as we have to rely on our guides throughout the entire dinner.
We were separated into groups and my group had Carolyn as our lovely guide and server. She was great.
I went with Lena from lenatalks.co.nz and it was great to have someone I know because at least I knew that she would be in the same table as me amongst other strangers.
Before we entered the dining area, we got into our groups and we lined up and prepared ourselves for this unique dining experience. We were then guided by Carolyn into the dark room behind the black curtains.
I thought that there would be a glimmer of light inside but what surprised me is that it’s actually pitch black. You cannot see a thing once you go behind the black curtains. You can’t tell the difference when you have your eyes open and closed.
It took me a few minutes to adjust and I was initially concerned about tripping but we finally got to our seats safely and we waited for the other groups. I love food but part of it is admiring how it’s plated and what it looks like especially in these days of Instagramming your meals before you eat it. In this dining experience, you don’t get that at all and we had no idea of what we were being served. The menu was a complete surprise and part of the fun is guessing what you’re eating. You don’t get told the menu until after you leave the dining area.
Our first course was Chinese spiced duck bao, pickled vegetables, coriander, plum sauce, pine nuts and a pineapple, bean sprout, sesame and Vietnamese mint slaw.
It was easy to guess that this course was a bao due to the texture of the bun. However, I didn’t guess the meat correctly. I think maybe one or two people in our table guessed it right in the end but I didn’t think it was duck even though I love duck. Anyway, this dish tasted amazing and was my favourite course.
As this event was by Sacred Hill, all our courses were paired with their wines. We didn’t know which ones so we had a guess at the start of each meal. The first course was paired with their Pinot Gris which has aromas of Nashi Pear and apricot, vanilla pod, nutmeg and clove. This was quite a nice wine and I enjoyed it.
Our main course kept us guessing! I knew it was red meat when I touched and smelled it. By the way, table manners go out the window when you’re dining in the dark. No one can see that you’re eating everything with your hands. I didn’t use my utensils because it was so much easier to eat with my hands. I could feel the different textures and shapes and it was just easier to get food to your mouth that way.
Eating this dish was interesting as the whole time we were all trying to guess the meat. I thought it was venison as it was meatier/gamier than beef or lamb. No one in our table guessed this right because this dish was Kangaroo loin, apple wood smoked, potato churros, grilled apple and fennel, crispy cavolo nero, balsamic roasted beetroot and feta salad.
I’ve never tried kangaroo meat before this night but I can say that it tasted great. It wasn’t too chewy and it was cooked well. I really liked the potato churros too. This was an unexpected but great dish.
As for the wine, it was paired with red which was the Sacred Hill’s Pinot Noir. This wine has aromas of spiced blackberry conserve and fig jam, Christmas pudding and field mushroom characters with earthy and truffle-like flavours. I’m not a big fan of red wine but I did try this with the dish and of course they paired beautifully. I think red meat is always nicely paired with red wine so it’s a winning match.
I was getting quite full by the end but I can never pass up on dessert. This was probably the hardest to eat because of the sauce. I used a spoon for the first time that night just to try and scoop it out. This was a dark chocolate fondant, white chocolate creme anglaise, popping candies, freeze dried raspberries and blueberries.
This dessert was really chocolatey and rich. It was good but I wish it came with cream or vanilla ice cream to balance out the richness of the chocolate.
The dessert was paired with the Deerstalkers Syrah which has notes of roasted meats, purple flowers, blueberries and exotic pepper spices. I said above that I’m not a fan of red wine. However, this syrah was beautiful and if I was to drink red wine, this would be my choice. It complemented the dessert quite well and it was a great end to our dining experience.
Overall, dining in the dark is an experience I’ll never forget. Losing your sense of sight is quite surreal. My eyes felt so tired after the dinner because even though I can’t see and I should’ve just closed my eyes the entire time, I couldn’t help it and still had my eyes open. I think my eyes worked twice as hard to try and see something amidst the complete darkness.
It was also interesting how uncoordinated I was and how much I rely so much on my vision. Pouring a glass of water was really difficult. Carolyn, our lovely guide taught us that the best way is to put your hand over the glass and a finger at the top so you know when you’ve poured enough. I did exactly that but what I didn’t think about is the speed of how I was pouring the water because I couldn’t see it and within seconds, I managed to spill water all over the table. I also lost my cutlery before dinner even started. I felt absolutely helpless but having Carolyn there to help us throughout the night was comforting.
I think the team was amazing and I had a great experience overall. It was definitely a unique dining experience and I recommend dining in complete darkness at least once in your life. You’ll be able to taste and savour food in a different way.
The Dans Le Noir? menu changes every month or so. If you book now, you will get a completely different menu and that’s why I couldn’t talk about our meals straight away. I think you’ll enjoy the food either way and you have three options: Trust the chef, seafood and vegan. It may be daunting to eat without your vision for a couple of hours but be assured that you have the amazing guides to help you and be your set of eyes for the night.
Sacred Hill is awesome for letting this happen and it was a great way for me to try different wines that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise like the pinot noir and syrah. These wines should be available in stores and prices are $16.99 for the Pinot Gris, $21.99 for the Pinot Noir and $59.99 for the Deerstalkers Syrah.
Would you try Dans Le Noir? I would like to know if it’s something people would actually sign up for.