“Because sometimes, the world is more enlightening without light.” Blindekuh
Last week we tried ‘Dine in the Dark’, a totally new and exciting dining experience at the fabulous Circo Abu Dhabi Italian restaurant located on the ground floor of the Intercontinental Abu Dhabi hotel. While dining in the dark is not a new concept in itself, it was certainly the first time this worldwide craze has made an appearance in the capital and a first for most of us media folk who were treated to a ‘surprise’ three-course dinner prepared by Chef Matteo Fontana and his team.
This sensory experience took place in complete darkness, the restaurant lights were turned out and to be doubly sure that none of us were peeking we were provided with Circo emblazoned blindfolds and matching aprons to catch all those morsels that missed our mouths. Diners were provided with pads and pens to jot down what we thought we were tasting in each course, dining in the dark is a challenge but writing down what you think you’re eating in pitch blackness was quite the challenge too, correct guesses were placed in a raffle to win prizes at the hotel.
With the lights switched off and our vision restricted our other four senses rocketed into overdrive as we relied heavily on smell, taste, touch and even hearing to successfully consume our meal, it is reported that depriving diners of their vision while dining enhances their overall gastronomic pleasure. We dubiously felt our way around our plates and tucked into a delicious three-course Italian meal, it was great concept and guessing the ingredients was fun for all the table and made people concentrate all the more on the distinct flavours and textures. I was particularly wary checking repeatedly with my server if each of my courses were definitely vegetarian.
We started with some bubbles while the lights were still on and then moved to our allocated places to begin the unique dining experience, starters of finely sliced beef carpaccio and a beetroot version for the vegetarians, mains of seafood lasagne and vegetable ratatouille followed by desserts of strawberry tiramisu in a white chocolate bombe and mixed fruit all accompanied by some fine Italian wines.
This daring way to dine brought a frenzied air of excitement to the whole restaurant at the sell-out event, disembodied yet familiar voices drifted across our table, there was a clanking of cutlery and crockery as people fumbled about in the darkness to locate their plates and glasses, frantic scribbling on the pads provided and mistakenly onto the tablecloths too, even the background music seemed more intense than usual adding to the darkened ambiance.
The culinary trend that bucks all convention in terms of food presentation and customary ambiance actually began back in 1999 in Zurich, Switzerland at a restaurant called Blindekuh (translated from German as ‘Blind Man’s Buff’) created by a blind clergyman called Jorge Spielmann, who wanted sighted guests to experience blindfolded dining. It’s popularity really took off in 2004 with the opening of Parisian restaurant Dans le Noir (translated from French as ‘In the Night’) that has since been replicated in similar standalone venues across the globe and homage paid by a multitude of hotels worldwide. The original concept and many of those replicating the experience have blind and visually impaired staff serving the dishes and many of these establishments donate a percentage of their takings to visually impaired charities.
Circo, the Italian for Circus, was the first of its kind in the Middle East when it opened at the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi in 2014. It came with plenty of history as part of the Maccioni family restaurant empire, Circo founder Sirio Maccioni and his wife Egidiana opened the acclaimed celebrity hangout, Le Cirque French restaurant in New York over forty years ago and now have a total of ten restaurants worldwide.
Circo Abu Dhabi is an upscale Italian restaurant and while its colourful showy decor was shrouded in darkness on this occasion the Tuscan inspired cuisine was as impressive as always. Conceptual dining is all the rage now and I must congratulate Circo Abu Dhabi on bringing this experience to the emirate, it’s always a pleasure to dine at my favourite Italian restaurant in the capital even in the dark. Thank you Chef Matteo, restaurant manager Gianluca and all the team for this amazing and certainly memorable dining experience, look out for more concept dining experiences at Circo Abu Dhabi in the future.
Circo Abu Dhabi
Location: Lower Ground Floor, Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi
Opening Hours: 12:00 – Midnight (Happy Hour – enjoy 50% off on selected beverages daily from 5pm – 7pm)
Telephone: 02 666 6888
Read more about Circo Abu Dhabi in previous posts Review: Circo, Abu Dhabi’s Best Kept Secret, Event: Zonin Wine Dinner at Circo Abu Dhabi, Happy First Anniversary Circo Abu Dhabi and Review: Media Dinner Circo Abu Dhabi
I was invited to this event. All views are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved. Additional photo used courtesy of Intercontinental Abu Dhabi