What is a ‘blind restaurant’? The rise of the dining in the dark experience

Us Brits like our food, that’s for sure. From a quick takeaway to a fancy meal out, we are often planning our next feed. But what if you couldn’t see the dish that had been placed in front of you? For those with vision impairments, this is what they face every meal time.

This means that other senses must come into play – and this has led to a fascinating rise in the dining in the dark phenomenon. With TV shows, including The Ellen Show, featuring the experience, this unique idea has started to take over the gastronomic world.

What is the dining in the dark concept?

This unique sensory awareness experience enables us to get an understanding of what it’s like to be visually impaired at meal time.

The lights are dimmed low and you must wear a blind fold throughout the experience. You will be asked to eliminate all sources of light, including mobile phones and cameras, to make the experience as authentic as possible.

You will be challenged to navigate through your meal without the sense of sight, therefore enhancing other senses. You are served by a waiter – often someone who is blind or partially sighted – and eat a range of foods from either a pre-determined or surprise menu. Whether you choose to use cutlery or dive right in is up to you!
Why was dining in the dark created?

The concept first sprung onto the scene in the 1990s. First being introduced in Europe, the idea became popular worldwide, including the United States and Asia, to make the public more aware of how people live with sight loss. With charities for the blind working extremely hard to raise this awareness, the dining in the dark experience gives the public first-hand knowledge of exactly what it is like for this living with poor or no vision.

The first dining in the dark experience took place in Paris at Michel Reilhac’s ‘Le gout du noir’. However, the original ‘dark dining’ restaurant is thought to be Blind Kuh — opened in 1999 in Zurich, Switzerland. In 2003, Edouard de Broglie created the first international chain of restaurants in the dark.

Why should we choose to go to a dining in the dark experience?

Whether you want a team-building exercise or just a unique night out, a dining in the dark experience can be a great idea. The one-of-a-kind culinary event you’ll be faced with if you choose a ‘surprise menu’ will allow you to work as a team to try to guess what it is you are all eating.

It allows you to leave your comfort zone for a short while and appreciate a sense that is taking for granted by so many of us. With more and more restaurants continuing to pop up offering this service, you might not have to travel too far to find your closest establishment. It aims to prove the notion that a meal can actually be more enjoyable if you remove your sense of sight.

Unfortunately, certain critics seemingly don’t approve of the simulation exercise as they fear the experience promotes individual and functional limitation models of disability while ignoring the impact of a more inclusive environment. However, surely as long as the dining in the dark phenomenon is continuing to keep sight limitation in front of the public it has to be a good thing.

by Jamie Roberts

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