Dans Le Noir, Clerkenwell

Is that your foot?

The Vibe

If you’re a visual person when it comes to judging potential paramours, this is the wrong place for you. Dans Le Noir is a pitch dark restaurant. It is a disorientating black hole which, despite serving the sort of French food that usually pouts to be looked out, robs you of the right to see what you’re going to be putting into your mouth, now or later. Once introduced to your waitress, you’re told to form a conga line with your date, grab their right shoulder and walk into the darkness. The impulse as you enter is to pull them back but don’t, it retards the seating process, annoys the waitress and makes you out to be a total pansy- charge ahead! With enough touching to make a creepy uncle blush, you’re put in your seats, handed a bottle of wine and told to put your finger in your wine glass as a measure stick for how full it is. Inevitably you mess up and overpour but in an edgy setting like this, that’s good news.

The Order

Not only do you have to relinquish control of your eyesight but you also have little choice about what you eat. Options are Fish, Vegetarian, Meat or the Chef’s surprise menu (a combo of all three). The 3 course menu comes in at £51 with a bottle of ‘surprise wine’ priced at £38. If cash conscious, just go for a couple of courses (£42), a glass of wine and then carry on the night elsewhere. The experience is strictly curated to allow diners to stay for around 90 minutes before the meal is wrapped up, but this works well as by then you’re either a bit bored, a bit hungry (you lost some food to the floor) or surprisingly pissed. The funnest thing about this place on a date- because it is fun- is the instability of it. You’re totally edge for the first 10 minutes so down your wine to acclimatise. You start to relax, the food comes, you panic again. You get used to eating hunched over (oooh how primative), then get more drunk. Towards the end of the meal you’re relaxed and content to stay in this make-shift womb for hours. But then you’re spat out into the unyielding lights of their waiting room to pay up.  Traumatic.

The Game

This is good dating for extreme introverts or restless extroverts (or, simply, perverts). It’s a veritable haven for the “keep the lights off, I’ll be with you in a moment, let’s just talk for a bit” sort of person.  No longer will you be nervous about sitting interview-style on a date, worrying about how your make-up looks or wondering if you’re sweating. You can just rely on chat to get you through and, in the absence of that, just keep repeating “how strange” it all is.  Partly out of necessity, partly out of romance, you should reach for their hand and hold it sweetly at moments throughout the meal, both reassuring and swoon-worthy. Lean forward, take it in clear turns to talk (monologue central), relax into it. You’ll leave with the realisation that, when you can’t fall back on body language, you listen a lot more to what’s being said. However, it can get loud and lary in there if you have the misfortune of being on a sitting with too many group bookings. It is also an irresistible situation for tactile, footsie-playing risk takers, who like to use public spaces as their sexual playground and can’t believe they only just discovered this place. Do what you dare.

The Faults

It’s a bit pricey, considering you probably won’t get everything on your plate into your mouth.

Sex Factor

You wouldn’t have sex after an Alton Towers ride would you? Tasty food aside, this is bizarre experiential dating and you’ll have to carry on the night at a pub around the corner if you want to take things further. The Three Kings is perfection, jukebox et al.

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