I went on a blind date
And I liked it.
That got your attention didn’t it?
Yeah I’m no Katy Perry but hey girls just gotta have fun!
Ok ok, I’ll stop with all the lyrics.
Let me clarify now that I have your attention. It was not the typical getting set up with a member of the opposite sex blind date, instead it is a dining experience in the dark.
Confused? Read on.
Dining in the dark is a rather new concept outside of Europe’s fine dining scene, but alas not everyone is lucky enough to have travelled to Paris to try out said dining experience. So when a friend of mine told me the Hong Kong’s French creation Group had such dining experience available at their French restaurant, The Alchemy I took up the opportunity to check it out ( I still want to see Europe though!)
The restaurant is easily missed if you don’t know the area well. Tucked up in one of the quieter streets of the Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s nightlife area and with minimal signage, do make sure you consult the trusty Mr Google before you head up there!
The entrance ( photo by Love bites HK)
The entrance to The Alchemy lives up to its name, you are greeted by mock medicinal cupboards and walls apothecary jars, with the low light exuding a sense of mystery. A sense of nervousness is upon me as I walk through the camouflaging front door and into the upper level of the establishment, the Alchemy Gastro Lounge.
The Gastro lounge ( photo by Love bites HK)
Unlike the exterior, the Gastro Lounge is warm and rich in gold and browns with an occasional sprinkling of dark greens. The Gastro Lounge is opened for lunch and dinner and has a rather cosy lazy Sunday afternoon feel to it. I’ve been told that they do a lean mean brunch here, definitely something I’m keen to check it out when I’m next back in Hong Kong!
Drinks in the Gastro lounge (Photo by dining partner)
We are here for the Dining in the Dark experience so we only briefly stop in the Gastro lounge for a drink to calm our nerves and a quick orientation of the night ahead of us. Being the one with almost zero alcohol tolerance, I opted for the mystery mocktail. The drinks here are innovative and the menu is constantly changing. The mocktail was quite enjoyable and whetted the appetite.
So after all my yabbering, you must all be wondering how dark the dining venue was?
So when I say dining in the dark, I mean pitch black dark. It is so dark that wearing white won’t make you visible. Hence the blind date. This dining experience is definitely not for the nyctophobics but a worthy contender for actual blind dates so you can easily make a quick escape!
To create this pitch black environment, we were guided down the lower level of the establishment to a dimly lit locker room where we were instructed to leave all our items behind and lock up all your valuables including your watches. The lockers were really tiny though, I could barely fit my clutch sized bag inside. I guess it reflects how space conscious Hong Kong is ;)
Next we are introduced to our guide for the evening, Keith. Keith like all other wait staff in the dining in the dark component of the establishment is visually impaired, but Keith knows the place back to front and navigates us through 3 layers of black out curtains to our table with no trouble(Hold onto the shoulders of the person in front of you!) . As diners we managed to knock over things a few times but Keith can even pour wine and top up our water glasses without a spill! Wow much?
As we are in the dark, you can simply call out your wait staff’s name if you need anything, this includes escorting you to the bathroom, which thankfully was NOT in the dark!
Without further adieu, let me delve into the food.
At The Alchemy, you can opt for anything from 3-5 courses starting at $500 for 3 courses and an optional wine pairing for an extra $200 HKD. We opted for the 3 course and the dining partner had the wine pairing. There I also no service charge and 5% of the profits go to The Hong Kong society of the Blind. So not only do you get a dinner experience, you are allowing restaurants to give back to society. Definitely a worthy cause!
When you can’t see, all your other senses go into ninja mode and are more heightened. I found myself paying more attention to the difference in texture of the foods, listening out for the smallest of sounds.
As each course is served, Keith guided our hands to the cutlery and where our “glasses” (all drinks are served in plastic for safety reasons) but after a feeble attempt to use the said cutlery I succumbed to using my hands for majority of the meal (So wash your hands beforehand!).
For us fortunate people who take sight for granted, being unable to see meant a sense of uneasiness and nervousness descend upon us. I felt myself sitting rather rigid and only making very small movements to locate certain items on the table.
So how did the food look?
no need to refresh the page.
This is what being visually impaired is like, they may not be able to see but they are quite strong- willed and lead normal lives like all of us!
As each course is served, Keith guided our hands to the cutlery and where our “glasses” (all drinks are served in plastic for safety reasons) but after a feeble attempt to use the said cutlery I succumbed to using my hands for majority of the meal (So wash your hands beforehand!)
The good thing about dining in the dark is that there is nothing to distract you, no looking for eye candy waiters, no looking at your neighbour’s dishes or technology to fiddle with, meaning you can have an undistracted and meaningful conversation with your dining partner. But with the darkness there is also a sense of eeriness and intimacy.
I personally was rather nervous when we first dove into darkness but as the first course arrived I soon forgot I was eating and chatting in total darkness. I think the initial nerves are mainly due to not knowing what you will be presented with and that you can’t see a single thing.
As it is completely dark in there, I found that closing your eyes instead of straining them to make out where things were much more comfortable.
After your dining experience, you are guided back upstairs where one of the upstairs staff will show you what items you had consumed during the evening. To our surprise, although we couldn’t see the food, Chef Pascal had still put so much TLC into the presentation of the courses.
We were stuffed full of food (and drinks) and were a bit buzzed after our experience by the time we were leaving the venue, but we left the venue being more thankful than ever for still being able to see the world around us.
So guys, are you interested in trying out dining experiences like this? and if you already have, what are your favourites? Let me know below!
Till next time,