Harley Young loses one sense and gains another on a trip to the capital

It's rare that I ever go down to London for anything. In fact, I think I’ve been a total of four times in all my 26 years on earth. 

It’s not that I detest overpriced drinks, sweaty, miserable tube stations, and the fact that everyone is always in a rush…honest. It’s just nothing’s as good as up North now, is it? 

Ok, maybe I’m biased. But being someone that was born and bred up North, studied up North, and built my entire career up North, I’m going to be. Besides, nowhere quite makes a cuppa like we do. 

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Going underground... Image: Confidentials

The main reason for my trip was my curiosity getting the better of me. I’d received an invite to check out one of the more unique foodie venues the big city has to offer; Dans le Noir? 

Those who did well in their MFL class (spoiler: I didn’t) will know this French phrase translates to ‘In the dark’. The concept: you’re guided into a pitch dark room after choosing between a meat-based or vegetarian menu and presented with a series of mystery dishes. 

The email got my attention immediately and I began reeling through the inevitable questions that come with such an idea. What if I can’t find my knife and fork? Will I spill food down my dress and leave the restaurant onto the streets of Farringdon looking a bit of a tit? Just how dark is dark? 

Only one way to find out I suppose. 

A wander around Notting Hill

We arrived at Euston Station bright and early, took one look at the tube map and realised we weren’t in Kansas anymore. The London underground network is far more complex than Manchester’s due to it being so much bigger, so in a fumbled panic as people rushed around us, we bought a day ticket for all nine zones. 


We later realised we didn't need a ticket for all nine zones. In fact, we probably only needed three. But alas, we were on our way to Notting Hill, famed for its markets, carnival, and of course the Hugh Grant movie. 

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Notting Hill station Image: Confidentials

I can see why people come from far and wide to gawk around here. The pastel coloured houses and cafes adorned with street art are all charming. 

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The real bit of eye candy for me though was Portobello Road; down the middle is market stall after market stall, littered with antiques and vintage garb, handmade ornaments, prints and artisan foods. At either side of the road is a plethora of independent bars, shops and eateries. 

If you want to swap Pret for something brilliantly peculiar, come to Portobello. 

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Before we ventured across London to our hotel for the evening, I stopped off at GA Notting Hill as they’d kindly offered to give me a much needed haircut. This Italian-inspired hair salon brand has four sites across London (South Kensington, Chelsea, Wimbledon and, of course, Notting Hill) and combines exceptional hairdressing services with a luxury experience. 

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GA Salon Notting Hill Image: Confidentials

Whether you’re after a full colour transformation or just a bouncy blowdry ahead of your big night out, the stylists here know exactly what they’re doing. 

My stylist, Carmen Marangi listened carefully to the style I had in mind and helped me sift through reference photos to find the right cut to suit my face shape and hair texture. 

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GA Salon Notting Hill Image: Confidentials
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Sweet treats at GA Salon Notting Hill Image: Confidentials

I wanted a striking look that was also low maintenance in between appointments, so we decided on a textured ‘wolf cut’ with plenty of choppy layers to add some fun and bounce back into my naturally curly hair. 

Carmen worked her magic, shampooing and treating my hair with naturally sourced products and in just under an hour I left the salon feeling refreshed, confident and full of life, ready for a weekend in the big city.

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My fancy new haircut Image: Confidentials

Checking in

We arrived in Whitechapel around 4pm and took the short walk from the underground station over to where we’d be staying for the night - Hyatt Place London City East

Part of the Hyatt family, this modern and stylish hotel provides effortless access to the city of London with some rooms offering panoramic views of the city’s iconic skyline. A stone’s throw away from Brick Lane, Spitalfields and neighbouring Shoreditch, this 280 room establishment is well located for those looking for a trendy trip to the capital. 

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Hyatt Place London City East​ Image: Confidentials

Guests can check in and out contactlessly at the machines in the foyer, great for when you’re in a rush. We did just that and our room key was scanned and printed ready for us to hop in the lift up to the eighth floor. 

On the floor above, there’s a sky bar and al-fresco dining terrace as well as bird boxes and flowers to encourage nature back into this East London metropolis.

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Inside our room Image: Confidentials

The room 

Our room was bright and airy with a fun and colourful feel to it. Combining practicality with stylishness, this compact yet well laid out space had everything you could need for a short stay in the city including a dedicated workspace, smart TV, small sofa and free Wi-Fi throughout. 

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Inside our room Image: Confidentials

We were lucky enough to bag a room on one of the top floors with its own private balcony which we took full advantage of in between rain showers. 

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The view from our room Image: Confidentials

We were also greeted by a lovely welcome note and two house made cocktails which was a nice touch.

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Welcome cocktails Image: Confidentials

After we’d settled into our room, freshened up and made use of the amenities, we headed back out to Farrington to try the infamous Dans Le Noir?

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Our room Image: Confidentials

Dining in the dark

Arriving at Dans Le Noir? we were guided through to a bar and waiting area. Before we placed our orders, we were asked to hand over our phones and smart watches in case they lit up and spoiled the experience for us and other diners within the room. 

A member of the team then came over to confirm our dietary requirements and that we were booked in for the three-course dinner option (there’s a five-course option available, too). We then settled in with a drink (a non alcoholic cocktail for me and a beer for Dave) and took in the surroundings of what we could see of the restaurant. 

Painted dark red and with moody lighting, the design of the place didn’t feel all too dissimilar to any other high end restaurant you’d visit, until you look over to the wall and notice images of servers signing food-related words in Makaton. Perhaps this was a sign of what's to come? We knew we’d be dining in the dark, that part was certain, but would we have another sense taken away, too?

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Dans Le Noir? Image: Confidentials

Once our table was ready, our drinks were transferred from our fancy glasses into tumblers that were a little more tactile - these were about to come in very handy as shortly after we were plunged into complete and utter darkness. 

A member of the team took us upstairs to the dining area and we were greeted by one of the restaurant staff. We were asked to place our hand on the shoulder of our waiter as he guided us slowly but surely to our table. We fumbled around nervously, unsure whether we were about to sit on our seat or on the lap of a fellow diner, our perspective completely skewed. 

It’s an unusual sensation, having your eyes open and desperately trying to focus on what's in the room but being met by the blackest black - even Anish Kapoor would be fumbling around.

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An accurate representation of what we could see (or couldn't see for that matter) Image: Confidentials

The room felt enormous but tiny at the same time. Every clink of cutlery, shuffle of feet, anxious laugh or squeal from other guests was amplified tenfold by our ears as they tried to make up for the sense that we’d just lost. 

We had no idea where other diners or the staff were apart from the occasional call of “coming through” vibrating from one side of the room to the next. Your mind starts to play tricks and paints the picture for you, but you quickly realise that your depth perception is off when you go to pick up a spoonful of food and prod your chin with an empty utensil. 

‘At least my diet is going well’ I thought to myself as I tried and failed for a fourth time to get any food to my mouth. On the fifth attempt I succeeded and my brain went into overdrive trying to figure out what I’d just tasted. 

Another two courses followed and my eating in the dark skills had mildly improved. However, my sense of taste was not as I discovered afterwards, as my eyes adjusted to the light again and I was presented with the hidden menu, I’d gotten the majority of the ingredients wrong. Embarrassing to admit as a food and drink journalist, but hey ho.

We finished our drinks and were reunited with our technology before heading back out onto the streets of Farringdon. 

The experience made me realise just how much we as consumers rely on our eyes when it comes to analysing food. And just how clumsy I really am when it comes down to coordination. 


After a restful night’s sleep at Hyatt Place, we packed our bags and took a short stroll down the road to Circle & Slice, a pizza joint that had a wide array of baked goods in the window that enticed us in. 

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Circle & Slice Image: Confidentials

I was wooed by a hazelnut and pistachio croissant while Dave opted for a chicken, pesto and pepper melt. Both equally delicious and affordable - a winning way to start any Sunday. 

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Vintage shops galore

We then took a U-turn and headed towards Brick Lane and Shoreditch to do some exploring. Considered one of the most trendy suburbs in London, and probably the area with the most vintage shops per square mile, Brick Lane and its surrounding streets have a unique charm to them. 

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There’s loads of handmade, thrifty garments and accessories to peruse around here, some more expensive than others, and on weekends there’s markets and food stalls that spill out onto the street offering some of London’s best underground dishes. 

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We hoped to end our trip by popping into Beigel Bake for one of their famous bagels but I took one look at the queue and almost died. Maybe next time I’ll have to take advantage of their 24-hour service and head by around 5am.

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Stay awake to beat the queues for Beigel Bake Image: Confidentials

Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young

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