Dining on the Dark Side
At one point in time or another, we have all been asked to ‘just close your eyes and trust me’. For better or worse, it really depends on who is doing the asking that determines what the outcome is.
Furthermore, if it happens to be a complete stranger asking you then the simple task becomes even more difficult for some. But I for one can tell you that at the Fairmont Hotel in Dubai, when the waiters at Noire ask you to trust them, you’re going to be in for a real treat in dining experiences.
I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive when I agreed to ‘dine in the dark’. I certainly didn’t wear my best suit for fear of dropping or spilling something down my front.
As Dusk Falls
When you dine at Noire, the entire restaurant dines at the same time. You enter together, you eat together, and everybody is escorted out when the meal has finished. So, arriving early as instructed, the hostess checked our names off the list and we proceeded to the patio for some pre-dinner cocktails while we were waiting for the others to arrive.
Prior to arrival, when you make the reservation the staff take careful consideration for you to list any food allergies that you might have or any preferences when it comes to vegan or not. When the reserved hour arrived, we were all escorted into a ‘waiting room’ and final checks were made to make sure that all of the allergies and dietary guidelines were still correct.
When ready, the waiters donned night-vision goggles and led us one table at a time into a room that was absolutely pitch black.
Black is Black
It does take some time to get accustomed to trusting everything besides your sight. Even before a single morsel was served, the staff explained the table’s layout and the placement of items. Slow groping hands walked the table as the waiters explained how things were, and eventually this would be come almost second nature. The only piece of dinnerware not present were knives…but that’s probably a good thing.
The plates were porcelain, the glasses were glass and to go one step further, the wine glass was stemmed. Red and white wine were both available, and being slightly daring, I opted for red.
The menu for Noire changes weekly. For our starters it was: Pan seared lobster, soft shell crab tempura, cumin and fennel puree, Asian pickle salsa, mango pearls and beetroot sago crackers. The only information we were given when the dish was placed in front of us was “It’s a rectangular plate”.
As we neared the end, we were given additional information such as “there’s a bit more in the middle/on the edge” and were tasked at either finishing or trying to find the elusive morsel that remained.
The main course of Wagyu beef rump, asparagus green pea puree, sweet potatoes, semi-dried tomatoes, grilled asparagus, parmesan-coconut chips and beef jus followed shortly after with the same set of directions (there’s a bit of meat at 2 o’clock or some vegetables at 7 o’clock), a bit of guidance and stumbling of silverware in the dark.
As the night went on, things began to get easier. Your hands and arms started to automatically move about navigating for the glass of wine or piece of cutlery that you had automatically laid down in the same position and fashion as you normally do at any other restaurant or at home.
Through the evening a top-up on the wine was easily handled by signaling to the waiters as they monitored everything from the edge of the room. All you had to do was wave in the direction of a hovering red dot that was the light on the goggles that each of them were wearing.
A Night to Remember
By the time our dessert of Chocolate sponge, coffee mousse, almond za’atar crumble, pumpkin confit, caramel sauce, meringue and pumpkin ice cream arrived the camaraderie of the room was beginning to solidify. Not only were we discussing the theories of what we were eating, but we were beginning to joke around with the other tables…not having your sight heightened every other sense, you eavesdropped on the other conversations whether you wanted to or not.
When the night finally concluded, we were all escorted out in the same fashion that we entered. Once outside in the light we were given the opportunity to try on the waiters night-vision goggles and re-enter the room to see if we could actually find the table we had sat for the evening. We were even quizzed by the head Chef to see if we could actually tell him the flavors we had enjoyed…including which type of wine was served.
It was certainly a great experience and one that I’ll try again when I have guests in town. The concept really makes you talk with your dining partner(s) since you’re not concentrating on what is happening visually around you, and from what I was told, couples that rarely speak have a tendency to ask for additional time with an additional glass of wine.
Hours of Operation:
From Monday to Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday and Sunday closed
9th Floor, Fairmont Dubai
Business / Smart Casual
Phone +971 (0)4-311-8316; Email: Dining in the Dark Reservations
Advance bookings are strongly recommended
Any allergies and or dietary restrictions must be mentioned at the time of the booking
*All photos of food are for representation only. Menu changes weekly to keep the surprise, and it's dark, remember? So photos of my meal weren't possible.