My first experience of Dakota Grill came not long after it opened, promising to bring some luxury to Ducie Street in Manchester, which just so happened to coincide with the visit of some famous guests. The Spice Girls were in town, playing the nearby Etihad Stadium and no matter what anyone’s opinion of said ‘girl band’, there was certainly an air of excitement across the City and the sight of more leopard skin and Union Jack dresses than you could comfortably wave a fluorescent glow stick at.
As with so much of the current and ongoing regeneration in Manchester, Dakota Grill is impressive and has a discernible air of class and quality, or rather a lot of posh you may say (cue as many Spice Girl gags as possible). It attractively looms over the Piccadilly area and its proximity to the main train station and fashionable Northern Quarter make it perfectly situated for those heading into the City Centre and beyond although from the exterior alone, it is obvious the type of clientele they are appealing to. The car park houses sporty (ahem) and other such spectacular vehicles that would represent a considerable dent in the finances of even those with the most expansive wallet or expenses account.
The aura of ‘high end’ emanates inside also, with a dark and moody (but certainly not scary) atmosphere reminiscent of a 1920s members only club but not in the least bit oppressive kind of way. The sign of a quality hotel bar and restaurant is one that affords you the preferred option of remaining within the walls of your night’s accommodation to drink and dine rather than heading out to source some alternative venue.
I often find that an amuse bouche can be something of a distraction, flattering to deceive as to what is to come. However, our beetroot puree with a parsnip crisp was delightful and served as the perfect prequel as to what was to follow including the freshly baked bread and Venetian dip, something of a signature dish from what I hear. The fritto misto was delicate and light whilst the pigeon, foie gras and confit duck was substantial and each component supplemented each other sublimely. The halibut fish of the day with confit eel and sarladaise potatoes was one of my best plates of the year so far. Having spoken to a colleague who had been to Dakota Grill twice since its opening in May 2019, he was insistent that the steak was a given although the menu did offer plenty of competition, and he wasn’t wrong. The rib eye and with a bone marrow jus didn’t disappoint although it could have benefited from a little ginger (it didn’t – but come on, I had to get it in somehow), partnered with a kale and pancetta side that would have sufficed as a main in itself. I could quite happily have worked my way through each of the desserts, yet the indulgent courses prior offered little justification for further embellishment of the waistline as difficult as it was to tear myself away.
With a domineering exterior and salubrious inner, you would forgive Dakota Grill (named after the aircraft) a little poetic license in delivering slightly standard food fair to compensate for the attention to detail with everything else. With a 120 seat restaurant, 74 seat bar, 3 bespoke private dining rooms and a cigar garden, it would be easy for the food on offer to slip into the background of what is a £30m development but head chef Sam Karle has ensured that the baby hotel on the block (see what I did there) is not only a destination for an overnight stay for a Spice Girl but also a must visit for food.
Dakota Grill Manchester
29 Ducie Street