Blind lead the way in pitch-black restaurant

It's the ultimate blind taste test - a fine-dining meal served in pitch-black darkness, where the menu's a mystery to all but the chef.  

Diners in Auckland can now sit down to Dinner In The Dark by Dans Le Noir, where the meals are served by blind wait staff and the diners get a taste of life in their shoes.

Launched in Paris in 2003 to raise awareness and understanding for the visually impaired, Dans Le Noir is now a culinary powerhouse that operates in seven cities worldwide.

Founder Edouard de Broglie says the concept is a new way to experience food. But more than just a sensory shift, it's designed to provoke a thoughtful response.

"Our goal is that people go out with a question in their head - a question about the taste, the way they eat, a question about the way they relate with other people," he told Newshub.

It's a challenge to even find your fork or glass and without any visual clues as a guide, it's hard to know what you're eating at all.

"I could pick some of it, but I couldn't pick all of it," one attendee told Newshub.

"I was surprised how often I picked up my fork with nothing on it."

The event really is the blind leading the blind. All 10 of the local wait staff are visually impaired and hired by Rydges, which hosts the event.

They're the eyes for the diners in the overwhelming darkness. Each has memorized the layout of the room, and they serve a total of 60 diners three plated courses, with wine pairings to match.

And who better to guide us through Dining In The Dark than those who live it every day?

"People couldn't imagine 15 years ago the blind could be a waiter or a guide," Mr de Broglie said.

"Now they realise they can do everything."

Dinner In The Dark is the same around the world - half of all its staff are blind or disabled.

But Mr de Broglie notes this is no charity. It's a successful for-profit business, and that is a lesson in itself.

"We want to be a model to other companies that they can employ people with a disability and be efficient and profitable," Mr de Broglie said.

The company plans to stay in business - and keep all its visually-impaired employees on staff - for as long as Kiwis keep showing up.

And while that takes a little blind faith in the chef, so far the future looks surprisingly bright.