I must admit that when I first signed up for blind-dining at Island Grill, I was a little trepidatious. It wasn’t the prospect of sitting in the dark that I was concerned about, more the fact that I am probably the most uncoordinated person in the history of the planet and felt it was more than certain that a great deal of food would miss my mouth and end up on the table. However, my fear was slightly reduced by the fact I had cunningly invited someone who was even less spatially aware than me with the mentality that every embarrassing moment is much less embarrassing when you have someone to share it with. After all, they do say a problem shared, is a problem halved.
To be honest though, I wasted a great deal of time worrying about it. It was not scary in the slightest, mainly because our lovely waitress for the evening Maria was not only very helpful but also very understanding, letting us know from the start that it was absolutely fine if we had any unfortunate incidents. She had experienced the evening herself and told us that after spending nearly an hour failing to successfully get her mushroom risotto from her spoon into her mouth, that there were absolutely no judgements.
Having been seated in a quiet corner looking out onto Bayswater Road, our blindfolds were revealed to us. The evening was part of RLSB charity ‘London without Limits’ scheme; a scheme that offers Londoners a chance to explore the city in a way that blind and partially-sighted people do, whilst raising awareness of the reality of childhood sight loss. Each blindfold has been specially designed by designers so we were excited to see the blindfolds we would be donning for the evening. I was slightly saddened that each blindfold for each of the events were the same but decided, I personally wouldn’t be able to see anything so it didn’t particular matter. Designers such as Wayne Hemingway and Giles Deacon created the blindfolds and they are available to purchase here.
Once blind-folded up and following the obligatory photographs, I was surprised at how easily I settled into the experience. Despite being a little disorientated, there was something quite freeing about not being able to see the people around you. It meant less people watching and actually engaging with the person that you were sitting with which doesn’t always happen these days. To help us relax, we started with a raspberry mojito. It is amazing what you notice when you are blindfolded. It is the small things, like differentiating between a water and the cocktail glass by the slightly colder feel of the glasses. The raspberry of the mojito was refreshing, and with the blindfold on, you could almost imagine that it wasn’t raining outside and the sun was shining on your back.
The image of a beach in Thailand was further enhanced when our starter: Salt and Pepper Calamari arrived. This was probably one of our better choices logistically due to the fact that we could eat the food with our hands and hence didn’t need to try out the cutlery. Although there were a few times that I missed the ramekin filled with a delicious chilli and lime dipping sauce, the crispiness of the calamari was fantastic and you could really pick up on the flavours of the sweet chilli.
Our next choices, were perhaps not so successful. I went for a rare, rib-eye steak with a béarnaise sauce whilst my guest decided to go for the pan-fried sea-bass with globe artichokes, on a bed of mushrooms. Both of these dishes required cutting. Mine even resulted in a special steak knife being presented to me. I am not going to lie, the steak was a challenge. For one I had no concept of how large the pieces of steak I was cutting were and never really managed to succeed in dipping the pieces into the béarnaise. There was only one thing for it, to pour the sauce over the steak, a practice that was met with a streak of laughter from my friend as after having a sneaky peek she realised I had only poured this on one half of the steak.
By the end of the mains, we were exhausted. The blind fold makes you work for your food, resulting in you appreciating it a little more than you usually would. Despite exhaustion, dessert was most definitely on the cards. I went for the Honey Panna Cotta made with the hotel’s own rooftop honey, whilst my guest went for the Chocolate Trio. The blindfold certainly added to the fun of my dessert. The taste of the honey was evident from your first mouthful of the panna cotta, and every so often this would be mixed with the taste of a surprise raspberry that circled the plate. The only thing I found frustrating was the fight I had in locking down the chocolate and honeycomb crunch- but can promise you the struggle was worth it. The trio of chocolate, consisting of a chocolate sorbet, a chocolate fondant and a white chocolate and coffee foam, was a little to rich for my guest but I suspect that this was enhanced by the blindfold.
One of the things that I found difficult about the experience was choosing each course. Without a menu, I felt that I made quick and obvious decisions, this doesn’t mean that I was disappointed with my choices, just feel the experience could have been further amplified if the choice had been taken out altogether. Despite this, I really enjoyed the experience and am looking forward to trying out the other events of the London without Limits scheme. Anyone want to come to blind comedy with me?
Blind-dining at the Island Grill will be running until 2nd November.