Dans le Noir

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Dans le Noir's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Dans le Noir is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Dans le Noir gives six per cent of
its profits to three charities
The outside of Dans le Noir
on Clerkenwell Green
Dansle Noir is a restaurant with a difference: the food is
served in complete darkness. This concept was launched
in Paris by Edouard de Broglie, a French entrepreneur.
Paul Barry-Walsh encouraged him to launch in London and
in 2005 it was established in Clerkenwell. Partners Paul
and Edouard tell
The Parliamentary Review
more about the
restaurant’s journey since.
Dans le Noir employs 15 blind waiters. It’s worth noting that the relationship
with your waiter is rather more intimate than in traditional restaurants as you are
dependent upon them to show you to your seat, to seat you and to show you
where your knife, fork, spoon and glass are located. Indeed, in the dark you feel
almost completely dependent upon them and it is quite usual for the waiters to
be hugged after they have guided you out of the restaurant – not something that
would be considered normal in every restaurant. But this is much more than just a
restaurant: it is a unique experience.
Weinvite members of the public to imagine, just for an hour so, what it might be
like not to have the use of your sight. This also compels you to use your other senses
more actively; however, the restaurant also has a number of other activities. These
include silent music events, which take place between Wednesday and Sunday
where eight deaf staff are deployed to teach members of the public how to sign.
Unique to the UK
While Dans le Noir is definitely a for-profit enterprise, we have a strong sense of
purpose, each year donating between five and ten per cent of those profits to good
»Partners: Paul Barry-Walsh and
Edouard de Broglie
»Founded in 2005
»Based in central London
»Services: Restaurant that
operates with visually impaired
»No. of employees: 40, with 3
»There are ten Dans le Noir
restaurants worldwide,
employing 80 blind waiters
»Five per cent of its profits go
to charity
»1.5 million visitors worldwide
Dans le Noir
Highlighting best practice
causes. There are two programmes
that are very close to my heart – one
is giving light to African schools to
allow children to do their homework,
this being achieved by providing
solar power and batteries. We have
also been enthusiastic supporters of
the Fredericks Foundation, a micro-
loan organisation that focuses on
providing loans to those who do not
have access to finance to fund their
We appreciate that enterprise
does not operate in a vacuum and
consequently we are very keen to
act as a responsible corporate player.
One way in which this has manifested
itself is our steady move towards
organic foods. In France, we even have
our own land for producing organic
produce. We do this for two reasons:
primarily because the food is tastier,
but secondly because we believe
factory farming animals is immoral,
unsustainable and self-evidently bad
for the planet.
We had a difficult start to life in
London, as the authorities were not
very sympathetic to the concept
initially and they insisted on a number
of changes to the original plans, such
as moving the staircase. We also had
difficulties gaining the appropriate
certification from the fire brigade.
This resulted in us missing our original
cost budget and opening later than
planned. The restaurant made a loss
in its first couple of years, but from
the start there was great interest in
the concept and it received a lot of
publicity so we remained confident
that we would eventually become
An upward trajectory
In 2018, the business was turning over
nearly £2 million and making a little
under £400,000 profit.
What is particularly inspiring is that
the concept has been rolled out to
a number of countries including
Cliients being taken into
the restaurant by a blind
members of
the public to
imagine, just
for an hour
so, what it
might be like
not to have
the use of
your sight
Australia, New Zealand, South Korea,
Spain, Russia and most recently
Morocco, all of which provide real
jobs for non-sighted individuals. It is
worth noting that we have a very low
turnover of our staff, some of whom
have been with us since we launched
13 years ago.
Our revenue growth has been on an
upward trend since our inception, with
the exception of 2012, which we put
down to the impact of the Olympics
being held in London. Despite
members of the British Paralympic
team visiting us, overall numbers
were a little below the previous
year. We have also had a number
of Hollywood royalty visit us, as well
as many presidents, prime ministers
and celebrities, perhaps because it’s a
naturally discreet venue.
Improving and expanding
The enterprise faces many challenges
right now; the lease expires in 2020,
and we have to decide whether to
move to a larger venue or stay where
we are. In addition, we are looking
to take on a separate venue for our
booming silent nights initiatives. While
we do not think Brexit will affect us
directly, the restaurant does have a
policy of rotating managers from other
countries, which means it could have a
minor impact.
We have many plans for the future,
includinga spa staffed by theblind and
a perfumery which will exclude sight.
Perhaps what is disappointing is the
lack of support from the largest blind
charity RNIB. For instance, we planned
a joint event with them in which we
would give our staff and facilities free
of charge; however, they let us down
at the last moment.We should be
seen as a model demonstrating how
real jobs can be created sustainably
and reinforcing the fact that disabled
employees are a stabilising influence
on an enterprise. Our success has been
achieved with no government support
and very little charity support. The
one programme that has helped the
waiters is the Access to Work, which
allows them to use taxis to get to their
place of employment.
We should be
seen as a
how real jobs
can be created
reinforcing the
fact that
employees are
a stabilising
influence on
an enterprise
Dans le Noir is regularly
featured in the top 10
things to do in London


This article was sponsored by Dans le Noir. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster