Out of curiosity I decided to go to restaurant
"Dans Le Noir?" in London. It is an experience that breaks with everything I knew.
Carl, the blind guide, puts us in single file with his hands on each other's shoulders, and thus leads us to the restaurant
who is in complete darkness. The room is filled with a cacophony of voices and laughter. Carl leads me to a large table where others sit diners
. The moment he says "I'll be right back", I fall into a total disorientation.
I wait for my eyes to adjust to the dark. Does not occur. Happily, Carl returns with a glass of wine, which I grab like a life preserver. The guide introduces me to my neighbors on both sides, and we soon strike up a lively conversation.
After a few minutes, Carl returns with my plate: of the four options I had chosen the “menu
I hope Carl explains to me a bit how it works, but he just says, "The only rule is that you can eat with your fingers." And walks away in the dark.
The cloak of darkness
For a few minutes, I try to explore my plate and the texture of the food with the fork
. I soon lose patience. Since nobody can see me, I start to eat with my fingers without shame. Could it be because I am very hungry and I cannot see, that the flavor is so rich?
Carl comes back and asks if everything is alright. I suddenly realize that I actually feel quite comfortable under the cloak of darkness. In a corner of the restaurant
, a group starts singing Happy Birthday, and I find myself singing with them out loud.
According to gerente
the local, Dominique Raclin, the main objective of the restaurant
is to demonstrate that there is no need to create specific jobs for the disabled. Quite the contrary, this initiative builds on its capabilities rather than emphasizing its limitations.
This emphasis on their abilities reverses the relationship between the sighted and the blind: in "Dans Le Noir?", It is the blind who guide the sighted, and it is the sighted who depend on their blind fellow men. I am amazed at the confidence with which the guides move in the dark.
Dominique says that for many guides, the restaurant
"Works like a stepping stone." The feeling of leading others gives them the confidence to work in other settings. For example, one of the guides went to work on a children's television show, and another is now a Disc Jockey.
I speak to Ashar, an 18-year-old who has been working at the restaurant for a year and a half. Next year, he will go to university to study music.
He also plays in a band. If you would have the same confidence without your restaurant job, we don't know. In any case, he is seen to be very confident in his guiding role.
Although the project is not charitable, and it is a for-profit business, the restaurant donates 10% of its profits to charities for the blind. Perhaps this is the key to its success: it is not a question of charity, but of establishing balanced relationships between blind and seers.
They are seers, or blind people who take their family and friends to share the experience.
The feeling of disorientation and complete dependence on the guide, a perfect stranger, is a very disturbing experience. The only option is blind trust in him. It is probably comparable to what a blind person experiences in public places, such as the subway.
This is exactly the goal of restaurant
: break the borders between blind and seers. But also the limits between charity and business, and of the clients among themselves. Coming out of the dark, you can talk a little more with your guide, find out what he ate, and find out what that neighbor with contagious laughter looks like. Then I found out that my neighbors talked to me so much because they were sorry that I was accompanied by someone so quiet. They did not know that she had gone alone.