Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Dans le Noir

Dans le Noir is an experience I will never forget and in all probability never repeat, but I would certainly recommend it.

A friend had read about this restaurant and was curious so we decided on it as our once-a-month 'dining club' venue. This is a circle of a few of my good and perpetually hungry (like me!) friends of mine who take turns to organise restaurant trips to interesting new places we've discovered or have not yet tried. Having such an unusual concept, Dans le Noir was not to be missed.

The translation for 'Dans le Noir' is 'In the Black' - and that is the whole concept - dining in pitch black.

On arrival the four of us had to store our belongings including phones and light up watches into lockers. This is to prevent any light entering the dining area at all, and to prevent people forgetting/losing bags et cetera. We were given a choice of 4 different meals - a surprise meal, a seafood meal, a vegetarian meal and a meaty meal. We were not told what was included in any of the meals. All of us having the same mindset when it comes to food, we all went for the surprise meal.

Led by our blind waiter we walked hands on shoulders in a train through curtains, curtains and more curtains before arriving in what felt like a massive dining area. Obviously we could see nothing but our other senses were certainly heightened. What would normally have been perceived as a huddled conversation sounded like a lively and public debate. My sense of spacial relations was completely distorted - while I felt like I was in a massive room, at the same time whenever we came near any other diners I felt like I was about to fall over them. We had previously imagined that we would be able to see something - at least a persons silhouette or even our own hand in front of our faces - but we were proved wrong. Your eyes do not adjust to absolute darkness.

Arriving at our table, there was a moment of panic. I was told to stand and wait for my friends at the other side of the table to be shown to their chairs but I was antsy - out of my dept, and for reasons unknown I decided to turn around. Such a small movement. I was still in the same place; just rotated around a little. However, I had absolutely no visual measure of how much I had turned and therefore I now had no idea where the table was! Thankfully our friendly waiter finished showing my friends their seats and I was rescued, with no-one any the wiser.

Ordeal over, we went about finding our way around the table. We had to feel for our plates, our cutlery, our glasses. We spoke and figured out where each of us was. Easy. Then the waiter brought over a basket of bread. Then a jug of water. Not quite so easy after that! We had to be careful not to hit each other in the face when passing around the bread basket. And trying to pour water from a jug into a glass, both of which you cannot see, was something special. We had a bit of a giggle and some soggy bread.

Then the proper food came. The food tasted good but what was amazing was the texture! It would seem that not being able to see your food not only heightens the taste but as you try to figure out what you are eating the texture becomes all the more important. Using cutlery to try and pick up things you cannot see is an 'interesting experience'. From what I could tell, more than one piece of food went flying around the black abyss. Most stabs of the fork yielded nothing but an unsatisfying clink on the plate. I learnt a whole new way of holding the fork - I had to extend my finger to the tip of the fork so that I could feel the food I was attempting to spear. Even this method was discarded by the end of the main meal as I just poked around the plate to see if there was anything left! (Thankfully no-one could see pucca_love_13)

All the food was pretty good and as we heard each other's guesses we'd have another chomp of our food to try and taste what they were tasting. We tasted a few different kinds of meat which we all guessed differently, as well as some kind of filled pasta. The dessert was a zesty brulee and some chocolates. The conversation never left the food as we endlessly discussed our shared experience.

By the time we were finished and left the room I felt as disoriented as when I entered the blackened room. The light burst into view, and we were greeted by a waitress who gave us the bill and finally explained what we were actually eating. Of course, we cannot be blamed for not guessing the meats - we had eaten guinea fowl, crocodile and deer! Our broad guesses for the other parts of the meal were generally correct.

I could write forever and not be able to describe everything about the experience so I end this story with a recommendation to try the restaurant for yourself, and some friendly advice - ALWAYS OBEY THE WAITER!!! pucca_love_07

The reality of Dans le Noir

Happy eating,


Monday, 19 April 2010


Nando's is definitely in my list of top 10 restaurants anywhere.

My love of piri piri chicken actually began in Portugal long before I had even heard of Nando's. I'd gone to Albufeira during the summer before moving to London and was recommended to try the spicy roast chicken over there. Having tried it on my first day I was immediately addicted and had it almost every day - in each restaurant it tasted a little different yet all had the same addictive properties. I was so hooked that I actually made the effort to hunt down a grocers (often difficult to do in tourist areas) to buy some of the marinade to bring home! This is the opposite to how I usually eat on holidays - it's usually 'eat everything in sight and leave with only the good memories'.

A couple of weeks later the two bottles of marinade I'd bought were squeaky clean. Not a drop left! Not having any plans to return to Portugal any time soon, I resigned myself to the fact that it may be quite a while before I ever tasted the tangy, spicy chicken again.

A few months later having finally moved to London to start uni a group of us were hanging around in the halls of residence common room, all hungry. In typical student style we sent out one sucker to pick us all up some food. I tell you, the aroma that greeted us, the group of starved students, was so good it should be illegal! The chicken; quickly chopped up and divided out was devoured messily and speedily. Drenched in the peri peri sauce, it was much spicier than I was used to at the time but even though my face was melting there was no chance I was going to stop eating, not even for water or chips. I recognised it immediately and when I finished eating, thoughts went immediately to how my waistline and wallet was going to suffer on the discovery of peri peri chicken down the road from me!

Thankfully I somehow managed to be sensible and kept Nando's as a 'treat' restaurant. It may not seem so for people who are working but it was pretty expensive food for a student to have regularly. The loyalty cards with a free full chicken upon completion were (and are) hugely appreciated!

As I mentioned in a previous post I was being trained to eat spicy food for my first year in London, and the Nando's spice levels were deemed an appropriate gauge of how I was doing...any excuse! If anyone is interested, I currently am at 'hot' level.

These days even though I earn a proper wage, the 'treat' mentality has stuck and it has become a tradition in our workplace to go there for lunch every pay-day to celebrate. If payday is at the end of the week, we pretty much salivate and fantasise all week!

Don't go if you have an addictive nature... pucca_love_09

Happy eating,


Thursday, 15 April 2010


I guess the best way to begin is to write about my favourite restaurant.

A few years ago there were a few of us wandering aimlessly through Camden Lock Market. After hours of browsing we were parched and hoping to rest our aching feet. Since it was a lovely summer day the whole marketplace was packed to the brim and there was nowhere to sit down if we wanted to eat the yummy international market food. We were looking around desperately when suddenly we spied two pillars of fire and an escalator to take us up into Gilgamesh and out of the mad, mad market.

Going up the escalators was an experience - all of the surroundings were covered in hand carved wood. Upstairs, the restaurant was unexpectedly massive and part of the roof was pulled back to let in the summer air. All the walls and furniture were also carved wood, depicting interesting scenes from the legend of Gilgamesh.

But onto the food!

It was a weekend afternoon so when we spied the dim sum menu we went straight for that. They had a small mix of traditional and experimental dim sum.

We went for:
  • Har Gau
  • Duck Spring Roll
  • Crispy Squid with Garlic Chips
  • Siu Mai
  • Son-in-law Eggs
  • Another type of roll I can't remember the name of
Now the first 4 many dim sum lovers will recognise - traditional dim sum. They were thankfully done the traditional way and altogether very tasty.
The roll whose name evades me was just amazing. It was served cold and it had some coriander and grapefruit in it - just lovely on a hot day, and very zingy!
The son-in-law eggs (a Thai dish) were covered in a hot chilli sauce and were very moorish. We were curious about the name so we asked our waitress who told us the story with zeal - and it is a great one but I couldn't do it justice here!

The cocktails we had there went down dangerously easy, even if they were a little overpriced.

I've been back many times since that fateful day and I can say I haven't been let down. The food has always been better than expected and the drinks never fail to hit the spot.

I must say though, as they have become more well known since their third birthday party which they invited various 'celebs' to, its been absolutely packed and I don't think its possible to just pop in like we did anymore. pucca_love_14
But its definitely worth the effort to book, and often have a half price set menu deal with them.

A small glimpse of lunchtime @ Gilgamesh with a live band

Happy eating,


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

New Blog

Welcome to my first blogpost! pucca_love_01

Soooo, I have after much debate decided to start writing about the food I've tried in London. I'm not going to lie; I eat a lot!

Having been brought up in Dublin - while the food there was absolutely amazing - my eyes (or tastebuds, even) were opened when I moved to London in my teens.
I didn't even eat spicy food when I arrived. I told this to a newfound Indian friend of mine upon arrival and I was firmly warned "We are going to train you!" There began one hell of a gruelling year followed by many, many years of gastronomical adventures.

I hope you will enjoy reading about them and feel inspired to try something new.