The Dakota Grill has managed to create something that is utterly unique to Manchester, which in itself is quite a difficult task these days.
When you step in, the first thing that encapsulates you is the warm, cosy, darkness that welcomes you in with open arms.
Be that as it may, we cannot say that this sense of comfort means that style is compromised. Dakota Grill, like the hotel as a whole, is a gorgeous vision of modern design with quiet booths, private dining and an all-round sense of contemporary opulence.
I have to say I liked it, and I felt like I was stepping out of Manchester and into Manhattan.
Our server seated us, suggested wine and recommended dishes without me having to ask. It was a great touch and it told me immediately that we were in for a treat.
We began with the world-famous Venetian Dip, which is complimentary at the start of every meal. Widely considered a Dakota classic, this dish is a molten hot plate of rich tomato sauce with a slice of lightly grilled goat’s cheese and served with a crunchy warm roll for dipping.
It certainly whetted our appetites and kicked our taste buds into action, which I suppose was exactly the point.
The starters were, on the whole, excellent.
Argyll Smoked Salmon (£12) was light, fresh and beautifully presented. The delicate tube of salmon was filled with a creamy avocado mousse, a classic pairing executed perfectly, with a langoustine salad on the side.
All in all, it was a plate of food that championed fine British seafood which will make an elegant beginning to any meal at Dakota Grill.
We also sampled the Chicken Liver Parfait (£9) which was also terrific. I often find parfait a rather safe choice on a menu, but this one ticked all the boxes without being too strong in neither brandy nor the metallic twinge of iron we so often find with offal.
Attention to detail at Dakota is something they really pride themselves on, and for good reason. For example, the beautiful quenelle of parfait came rolled in crispy shallots which added depth of flavour and texture and a bit of colour to the usually dull pate.
The little mini loaf of sweet brioche looked as if it would be more at home in a dolls house – extremely cute and even more delicious.
Moving on to the mains, we sampled the sumptuous Stone Bass (£22). I must say, it was cooked perfectly with delicate flesh and a crispy skin. It came paired with some lovely, golden, pan-fried scallops, crisp asparagus and a red pepper puree which was bright and tongue-tinglingly delicious.
Dakota Grill is perhaps best known for their steaks, but feeling adventurous I wanted something exciting and unique. Be that as it may, the temptation for beef became a little too much to bear so I found a middle ground with the Beef Fillet (£32).
This happens to be one of the most complex dishes I have ever laid my eyes on, and it certainly had a lot of different elements. A perfectly cooked beef fillet took centre stage which was charred on the outside and rosy pink in the middle.
Now, there were lots of bricks that made this dish – so keep up; there was a lovely Potato Salardaise (layers of sliced potatoes a bit like a gratin), baby carrots standing to attention, morel mushrooms, a homemade ravioli and an emerald green watercress sauce.
There was also a little Escargot delicately placed on the side which I haven’t eaten since I was in Paris when I was 10.
All these elements made sure this dish was sophisticated as possible, and some may call it complicated, but I felt it really worked and completely encapsulated what Dakota Grill is all about.
On to desserts, those of us with sweet teeth are extremely well catered for. Caramel Pana Cotta (£8) with honeycomb and hazelnut is a rich creamy way to finish a meal, and the Peanut Butter Parfait (£8) is an equally indulgent treat not to be missed when dining at Dakota.
If cheese is more your bag (like me) then strap in, because I am going to tell you about the Cheese Trolley (£16). Yes, TROLLEY.
Dakota grill has this fabulous trolley filled with all the best British cheeses in huge blocks for you to choose. The staff wheeled it to our table and proceeded to talk us through each one before slicing a bit off and building a cheese board with all the trimmings.
If I were you, I would also get yourself a lovely glass of vintage port to go with your cheese, of which Dakota has a few. We went for Barros 10-year-old tawny port (£7 per glass) which was a fantastic combination and sure, it was indulgent, but we were at Dakota after all, and it certainly seemed fitting.
I have got to say, there is something certainly special about Dakota Grill. I think the operative word would be sophisticated and there is this underlying, relaxed elegance about the place which is a joy to behold.
Granted, I am not going to sit here and tell you Dakota Grill is somewhere you can go every week, but it is one certainly worth saving up for, and I strongly suggest you go all out and splurge on the finest food and wine when you do.
Sometimes life is just too short not to enjoy the finer things in life, and Dakota Grill is certainly one of them.
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Dakota, 29 Ducie St, Manchester M1 2JL
0161 674 9180