I really wanted to come back last night and start writing about this, as the experience left me buzzing. At The Salutation Inn in Topsham a group of press representatives and us too, had a taster of the Dining in the Dark events that are taking place in November being put on by the WESC Foundation, which is a fantastic institution that offers residency to 100 or so young people with varying degrees of sight impairment, ranging from partial sight to absolutely no sight at all. Click through here for more information about the events.
As you can imagine there are not that many photos with this post compared to the usual barrage of images and photos taken at jaunty angles that I normally plaster across this blog. This experience was one that had to be described.
The evening was taking place in The Salutation Inn, an establishment that has become synonymous with fine dining under the command of Michelin trained chef-director Tom William-Hawkes, who has taken what was a ‘sticky carpet pub’ and given it a new life as one of the places to go for fine cuisine and excellent service (1# on Trip Advisor!).
The WESC Foundation will be laying on three one-of-a-kind Dining in the Dark events in November (Wednesday 25th, Thursday 26th and the ‘Gourmet’ night on the 27th November) that will see diners taken on a culinary journey of taste, but also empathy as you are guided up the stairs from the downstairs function rooms to the dining area by one of four guides who are themselves blind or partially sighted, hands on shoulders in to a room that is pitch black. The dining room is clad in a double lined curtains which creates a darkness that is rarely experienced in this modern age of street lights and twenty-four-seven daylight. The events are designed to take diners on a journey of culinary delight, but they are also meant to be thought-provoking.
We met our hosts as we entered through the front entrance of the restaurant, and were guided to a couple of rooms that acted as a gathering area for the diners; canapés and conversation were exchanged and consumed, after a little time we were told exactly what was going to happen. In groups of four, our guides would lead us upstairs in groups of four. Placing your hand on the shoulder of the person in front, we were led up the stairs in small groups to a room set up for dinner, in complete darkness.
As soon as we entered the room, my eyes were as good as useless. Having to rely on a mental image that I was painting in my head as to where items on the table were laid, it was only after I put my hand in the Confit of Rainbow Trout, that I realised the food was already served!
Our guides were around to help with anything we needed, I spent most of the meal trying to find my bread but ended up eating Tori’s instead. After I had poured my water (not in my glass, but somewhere…) I set about enjoying the beautiful piece of rainbow trout in front of me.
The taste of the fish, the tartness of the ratatouille and the basil of the marinade felt like fireworks going off in my mouth. Without sounding too cliché, there was a basil and trout filled party on my taste buds. Tastes seem to take on a new life without the eyes to play a part in the cognitive process of eating, and given the calibre of what The Salutation Inn produces, this event is guaranteed to deepen guest’s appreciation of taste.
After we had finished our meals, we were led out in a similar fashion to enjoy some teas coffees and petit fours (which we were allowed to bring home, post to follow). We listened to a short talk given by Jon Duckham (Fundraising Manager for WESC) and looked at just some of the kitchen and cooking items that were on display, all designed to help those with sight impairment.
Although our experience in the dark was a short one, it was a good overview of the sort of thing to expect, a journey of taste and an experience that will be hard to forget.
On Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th November the meal will include prosecco and canapés on arrival, three specially designed courses with a glass of wine, coffee and petit fours; all for £40 per person. The Gourmet night on the 27th November will include champagne and canapés on arrival, four specially designed courses with a full flight of wines chosen to complement each course with coffee and petit fours afterwards, all this for £80 per person.