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Poutine from La Banquise, one of Canada’s best exports

Montreal is a beautiful city basked with an array of old cobbled streets, a glorious waterfront and has a distinct European feel to it, with a touch of North America. It’s also well known for it’s poutine, and you can’t visit without a trip to the best Poutine restaurant in town, La Banquise.

The home of one of the most well known comedy festivals, Quebec’s largest city is easy to fall in love with. There are some much to see and do, and there is literally something for everyone.

One of the highlights are The Lachine Rapids. As you’ve probably guessed, you will get extremely wet but a fun experience. Not only that but you get to see more of the city from the water.

The standout experience in Montreal however, is by far a trip to O’Noir. Before I’d visited I was intrigued by the concept, so had to see for myself.

Dining In The Complete Darkness

O’Noir describes itself as a “culinary experience”. You go into the restaurant into a well light area, where you get given menus, and you choose what you want to eat and drink . All the waiters there are visually impaired, so you get an understanding of what they have to go through on a daily basis.

We all chose what we wanted, including “surprise dishes”. This basically gives the chefs free range and can cause a lot of fun later on. The waiters then come to help guide you into the dining area, which is as you probably already guessed, in the pitch black.

In order to help guide you into the dining room everyone is placed in single file, with your arms on the shoulder of the person in front of you. The waiter then guides everyone through the first door, which leads to the corridor. As soon as the door behind the last person is shut, you really can’t see anything. It is an extremely odd feeling, which can’t really be described until you experience it for yourself.

Everyone is guided through to the dining  room, where you get to experience the O’Noir experience. All valuables are put away in lockers before hand, so there is no way to cheat and get light, or even to tell the time (unless you have a glow in the dark watch).

As with a lot of restaurants, we were given bread as an appetizer, which was on the table in front. Unbeknown to us, we spent a little time feeling around to see where it was after the waiters bring it. Some awkward hand touching can ensue!

We had a group of twelve, only two of our group didn’t come, however as you can’t really see where anyone is you find yourself speaking much louder than usual. Our tour leader Jake was at the end of the table, but we found ourselves talking a little louder than we should have to speak to him. Everyone is together in the dining room, so it is a loud experience.

One way to describe the whole experience is “the stage before you fall into a deep sleep, where you can’t see anything”.

As you can’t see anything, it is also a great opportunity to play pranks on your mates. Lauren and Marian spend a lot of the time taking it in turns to keep tapping me. It took me a while, to realise there in fact wasn’t anyone behind me, and I believe I blamed several others including Tom. Lesson learnt, if I ever do anything like this again.

Everyone is given a number before they order, so this helps the waiters know where to go when they bring the food. You really appreciate and understand how hard it must be for them every day.

Our mains included a range of food that we had pre-ordered, and some surprise food that we were given. You aren’t told what you are getting, and they guide you to where it is, so you can eat. I was given some form of pasta, and we shared some “mystery alcohol”, which I think turned out to be red wine. I only managed half of my pasta, I didn’t realise I hadn’t eaten it all as I was so full. Perhaps this could be a new fad diet, to catch on.

Your senses really are enhanced whilst eating, and not being able to see and it was great fun trying to guess what you are having. When you’ve finished the waiters clear your plate, and ask you to guess what you think you’ve had. I don’t think we had a very good success rate. You are eventually told what you ate.

I couldn’t let the chance of a surprise pudding pass, so along with several of my fellow trekkers, enjoyed what I vaguely remember being some form of chocolate.

The whole dinner and trip to O’Noir, was bizarre but brilliant and a definite to do when you’re in Montreal.

Whilst they may be better restaurants with nicer food, you can’t beat the experience of dining in the dark.

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