ALCHEMY: DINING IN THE DARK AND GASTRO LOUNGE
“Wear all black” said my friend. “Why?”, I quipped. “Because if you spill, you can’t see the stain”. OH.
That was the conversation between my friend and I during our wait for our pre-dinner brief. You’re probably thinking, “What the heck am I yammering on about?”
DINING IN THE DARK
Conceptualized and then popularized in New York and London, dining in the dark is finally making its big unveil in Hong Kong.
Was it worth a try? DEFINITO.
And let me tell you why…
French dining in a pitch black room. How tres conventional. Not. Opened by French Creation Group, Alchemy has both Alchemy Gastro Lounge and Alchemy in the Dark under the same roof. The former lets you wine and dine in a mahogany and a little reminiscient of Harry Potter (it is called Alchemy overall) ambience that lends itself to the illusions of majestic grandeur, whilst the latter is all about experiencing dining in the dark, testing our agility of getting fork to mouth before the food drops onto the floor premature of its planned destination.
I tried the latter.
It is only by reservations as Alchemy in the Dark can only accommodate 25 guests at one time and it’s a set SECRET menu.
Not to fret about food allergies and such as when you make your reservations, they will inquire about any food allergies or items that you don’t like, that you might have. Once again, fear not if you forget, as they will once again reconfirm and/or inquire during your debrief before the dinner.
I arrived ahead of schedule (this never happens, time to buy the lotto) for our 730pm reservations, but my friends did not. Which meant I had time to snap some photos.
My friends arrived at 7:45 pm, however, it wasn’t until 8:10pm that we got our debrief. Once again, the debrief confirms your food allergies and/or food that you don’t want included in your plate and palate, what’s going to happen, what to do if you need to go to the washroom in the middle of the meal, etc.
At around 8:40pm, lo and behold, we were finally led down to Alchemy in the Dark. Here comes a teehee part – somewhat of a fail are the drawers to put your valuables as they are tiny! In the end, we locked out valuables inside and lugged our bags with us (which doesn’t make too much sense, but whatevs). Not a problem but the mural of drawers definitely played more into the alchemist appeal and less into functionality, that’s for sure.
It was an eye opener (or blindfold, in this case). Simple and otherwise mundane tasks such as opening a bottle of water and pouring it into a glass turned into a moderately difficult activity accompanied with giggles and a slight damp table.
Make sure to have clean hands because there are times when the only competent utensil will be your own hands and fingers!
I’m not going to delve too much into the details of the experience as that would affect your experience if you go. I can assure you though, that I felt safe and comfortable at all times and my server, who visually impaired was fantastic and so responsive to all our needs.
Elaborating on the security and safety of things, they have a CCTV monitoring the activities at Alchemy in the Dark at all times. How do we know this? Because my dear friend decided that it was easier to find her bottle of water if she were to leave it on her chair rather than on the table. Of course, she had to drop her bottle of water on the floor halfway through the meal, so at one part, her and I were trying to find the said water bottle by extending our legs as far out as we could go without leaving our chairs and tapping on the floor in a systematic manner (or so we thought) to see if we could come across the bottle. No such luck, but we must have looked freakin’ HIGHlarious to the peeps behind the CCTV.
As we were concerned with the wait staff slipping on the bottle, we tried to flag down our server as soon as possible and by the time our server had approached our table, he informed us that CCTV already saw the water bottle and had already dealt with picking it up. This literally happened in a span of less than 5 minutes so they’re pretty alert and attentive to the situation of Alchemy in the Dark at all times.
I quickly realized that without sight, things get distorted… Your perception of time, Your perception of space and depth. Your perception of distance. It was an incredibly mind-blowing and insightful experience. To imagine that we had such difficulties in a controlled environment versus what the visually impaired have to go through each day in an uncontrolled environment. Complete and absolute admiration goes out for the visually impaired.
The Food & Set Menus
The food overall was very good. Some minute things I didn’t like but on a whole, I found the value to be very good factoring in the quality of food, quality of experience, and the extremely intimate setting we were in.
Once again, I won’t indulge too much about the food as it would spoil your experience of guessing the different items that you will try and taste, which I personally thought was one of the funnest parts of the experience.
You know they say that our senses are heightened when you lose sense of another sense to compensate? On the contrary, I felt like my sense of taste heavily relied on my sight for things such as hues of items. Case in point, each of us guessed an ingredient of our mocktails, and NONE of the ingredients were actually in the drink. Had we seen or known the hue of the drink, we could have much more easily pinpointed the fruits based on colour (or eliminated certain fruits). Absolute taste test fail for us there.
The Post Debrief
After dessert, we were escorted back up to the Alchemy Gastro Lounge area. By this time it was about 11pm, so it indeed took the entire evening. It was then that I realized that they can only do one round of dinner patrons. Considering the fact that they can only seat 25 on one night and there is only one round of dinner per night, I am really impressed with the price point.
The post debrief involved going back through each course and talking about what we thought we consumed. I particularly liked the fact that they have a picture of the food plated for our reference as as we were tasting the items, we would reference the food amongst ourselves as “the bottom right round bread thing”, or “crispy cracker thing upper left”.
5% of the bill goes to the Hong Kong Society of the Blind so a part of your dinner helps a wonderful charity! Unfortunately, something I didn’t realize until writing this review is that, there is no service charge added to the bill. Crap, I didn’t tip, gasp!
Please tip generously. All the servers are visually impaired and our server was just fantastic and he was a big reason why my dining in the dark experience was fantastic.
THE WHOLE EVENING AFFAIR
FOR THE GIRLIES – WHIP OUT THAT CLUTCH
Yes, I would most definitely come again, and it is most definitely recommended. It was a great experience to walk a metre (not quite a mile) in someone else’s shoe. It was a terrific learning experience.
On the other hand, the enjoyment and entertainment value was also very high. It was incredibly amusing to be adamant that you’re eating chicken, then to be proven wrong after the fact.
In hindsight, I would recommend getting the wine pairing because then you get really see how much you know about your wines and if you can tell the difference between your Chardonnays and Merlots. Are you really the wine connoisseur you thought you were?
Address and directions:
16 Arbuthnot Road, Central, Hong Kong
The street, Arbuthnot, is the one parallel street up from Dragon-i on Wyndham Street. So if you know where Dragon-i is, then skip down to the directions “From Dragon-i”.
From Central Station, Exit D2:
Walk up D’aguilar Street, aka LKF, and hike up to the top where Hardrock cafe/ LKF hotel is. Get yourself into the elevator, through the hotel lobby and out to street level. Directly across the street should be Dragon-i. Cross the street and up the escalators to pass by Dragon-i.
Go up the escalators and once you reach the next street level, that street will be Arbuthnot. Head left and about half block down, look out for an alcove that is reminiscent of a Harry Potter Sorcery class.
How was your experience at Alchemy in the Dark? Let us know what you thought of it!