The blind feeding the blind..

Mon Jan 9, 2006 11:42 AM ET


By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) – For Londoners it will be the ultimate blind date.

A French entrepreneur is opening a new restaurant where diners are
served by blind waiters and eat their meal in pitch darkness. Chefs
used to creating flamboyant dishes that are a feast for the eye may
mock — and indeed some already have.

But Edouard de Broglie is convinced he is on to a winner with “Dans Le
Noir” (In The Dark) which opens in London next month. Exporting a
formula he launched in Paris with his first dining-in-the-dark
restaurant, de Broglie believes it is a perfect way to savor food by
just using the taste buds.

He is currently hiring 10 blind people as waiters who will lead diners
into the darkened room for a blind tasting with a difference. Customers
are guided in from a normally lit bar where they pick what they will
eat. In Paris, 80 percent of the clients opt for the surprise menu.

“A lot of people make huge mistakes in the dark. They confuse tuna and veal,” De Broglie said.

Project manager for the London restaurant is Nicolas Chartier who said:
“The experience is a bit daunting when you first approach it.

“But the waiters are there to reassure customers. They are the best
people in the dark. This is their world. They are very confident in it.”

But what of the clients? Will the London restaurant manage to break down traditional British reserve?

De Broglie is convinced “Les Anglais” will abandon their stiff upper lips.

“In darkness you don’t have any etiquette. It is very difficult not to
talk to your neighbor in the dark. The atmosphere is very convivial,”
he said.

For the thousands who have visited the Paris restaurant in the last 18
months, the experience has offered valuable insight into the world of
the blind.

“If you cannot understand such a handicap, this breaks down barriers.
Putting yourself in the hands of a blind person for two hours raises
your awareness of disability,” he said.

But what does it feel like to eat in the dark as you grope for your
knife and fork and try not to knock your wine glass over?

“The world felt both infinite and claustrophobic,” decided Britain’s
Independent Sunday. “Our taste buds were aroused but they were
confused. After an hour and a half, we were desperate to return to the
people and colors outside.”

Award-winning chef Marco Pierre White, who has a string of popular London restaurants, has been scornful of the idea.

“For me, the eyes must be used as well as the palate. It’s all part of
the show,” he said. “It is not fine dining. But I guess it saves a few
pounds on electricity.”

But de Broglie is unconcerned, arguing: “You have to try it and then
see if it is a gimmick. People realize the truth in the dark.”

About papillion

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