Midnight feast – dining in the dark in Dubai

November 27, 2013 10:33 am

Take a bite into something new this fall with the launch of Noire at Spectrum on One

By Vineetha Menon

You walk with trepidation into the unknown. Unsettling murmurs are everywhere as you try to react to the darkness that’s engulfed you, and you feel all your other senses heightening…

Welcome to Noire – dining for the adventurous. Starting this fall, Spectrum on One at the Fairmont Dubai will be inviting guests to step into the dark for a blind dining experience that’s poised to really take off in the region.

To be honest, though, it’s not an entirely new concept – blindekuh in Zurich, which opened in 1999, was the first restaurant where customers were served in the dark by blind servers and was a project of the Blind-Liecht foundation that helps to create opportunities for visually-impaired people. The dark dining chain Dans Le Noir soon followed, most famous for its brand in London that also features blind servers, with more branches in Paris, Barcelona and St. Petersberg.

While there have been dining in the dark one-off experiences and ventures in the past in Dubai, Spectrum on One is presently the only restaurant in the region that is offering blind dining and will remain ongoing starting this September.

Executive Chef and mastermind behind the Noire Dubai experience, Lorraine Sinclair, admits to Aficionado with a smile that while the concept is similar to the ‘dark restaurants’ such as the one in London, there’s one key difference – the servers working in Dubai aren’t blind as “that would have been hard to duplicate”, she admits.

But the commitment to saving sight remains strong with a portion of proceeds (AED27) from each dinner, which is priced at reasonable AED325 for a three-course menu with paired beverages, being donated to UK-registered charity, Sightsavers, which works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocates for equal rights for people with disabilities.

For a seemingly small contribution, it has a surprisingly big impact. For example, a blind dinner for two can help prevent blindness by funding surgery for a cataract sufferer in India, while proceeds from one dinner alone can provide essential nutritional support and education on River Blindness for a child in Ghana. If interested, diners in Dubai will even have the chance to receive regular correspondence about the recipient of your contribution.

There’s a well-accepted theory that flavours are intensified when people can’t see what they are eating and at Noire, it’s taken to another level – participants will experience a complete loss of vision for one and a half hours, putting their trust in the hands of chef Sinclair.

“So much of our opinions of taste are influenced by how a dish is presented, even before we’ve taken a bite,” says Sinclair, adding, “whereas plating during normal circumstances is fundamentally important from the guest perspective, everything is thrown out of balance at Noire with textures, smells, flavour combinations and even sounds taking precedence.”

Noire at Spectrum on One features a blackened out restaurant setting, and to ensure fewer spills than necessary, the servers will be donning night vision goggles to help guide their way throughout the restaurant, and to assist diners with their exclusive multi-sensory experience – only a maximum of 30 people can dine at a time.

After the meal, diners will also have the chance to discuss the featured menu of the night with the chef and restaurant manager – thankfully, in the light.

The experience

At an exclusive preview set up just for Aficionado, we found the Noire experience to be more than a bit unnerving at the start as we’re asked by our server to: “trust him” to guide us to our table. It’s easy for him to say, really, as he has night goggles to manoeuvre around.

Once seated, we slowly started to feel the table and cutlery, but begin to feel a bit overwhelmed by doing even the littlest things – from unceremoniously scooping some foie-gras from our plate to assessing where we could actually put our drink down. And, as much as we thought that we’d be more than capable in such a situation, every move was seemingly ‘new’ and took longer than expected.

Still, once we got over being taken out of our comfort zone, it was surprising how quickly all our other senses kicked in to balance out what’s been taken away – we relaxed, took slower bites and enjoyed some truly interesting conversation, albeit with voices in the dark.

We left completely satisfied – the secret menu meant we didn’t know what we were eating, but never before have we been so focused on savouring smells, flavours and textures. Definitely dining with a difference.

Other culinary adventures

Le Dîner en Blanc: New York

A mass “chic picnic” in a public space sees thousands of people take part in the unexpected. The location is only revealed at the last minute and everyone dresses in white for a refined dinner to remember.


Hajime Robot Restaurant: Bangkok

Offering modern Japanese fare, a human-like robot will serve and entertain you. It’s all very modern as there’s even a touch-screen menu at every table.


La Masia Encantada: Spain

Here your meal will be served up with a healthy dollop of horror. The three and a half hour dining ‘event’ sees you interact in an elaborate play, all while enjoying food served by waiters with bloody knives.


This article first appeared on http://aficionadome.com