There are Dakota Hotels in just four UK cities and I am so very grateful that Leeds is home to one of them. In addition to offering some of the finest boutique hotel accommodation in the city, Dakota Leeds provides an elegant setting for post-work drinks, lunchtime catch-ups and sophisticated evenings of wining and dining. Its onsite restaurant, Dakota Grill, is one of just 12 Leeds restaurants to have secured a spot in this year’s Michelin guide and having now dined there on two very different occasions, I feel this much sought-after accolade is very well deserved.
My first visit to Dakota Grill in Leeds was during the spring of this year. The memorable date night with my husband was spent sipping fruity cocktails and indulging in succulent steaks and parmesan fries whilst twinkling fairy lights provided a romantic ambience. It was a joyous experience from beginning to end; the professionalism of all the staff we encountered and the exceptional quality of the food left a lasting impression.
When the opportunity arose to return to Dakota Grill and sample dishes from their new Autumn menu, I didn’t hesitate to say yes and booked a table for last Friday evening.
Rather than being seated outside on the cosy terrace area of the luxury city-centre hotel, this time we were led down the stairs and into the atmospheric basement brasserie.
Dark and moody decor with accents of shimmering gold is synonymous with the Dakota brand, and it instantly sets the tone for an evening of decadence.
Unlike during our previous visit, when we spent a significant amount of time deliberating over Dakota Grill’s meticulously thought-out menu, we were on this occasion treated to eight courses, chosen and prepared for us by the venue’s talented head chef.
As is often the case when dining at Dakota Grill, our culinary adventure began with a crusty wholemeal loaf, served warm and with a tomato and goat cheese dip for Mr Wilson-Barrett and an oil and balsamic one for myself. The bread at Dakota Grill is delicious so it’s easy to overindulge, drastically limiting the amount you can consume of the following courses. I managed to restrain myself and eat a couple of slices only. Just as well, considering over the next couple of hours, we would be eating no fewer than three starters, three main courses and two desserts
Indecisive by nature, I was thrilled at the thought of being able to sample most of the dishes that had already caught my eye whilst perusing the recently launched menu on Dakota’s website the evening prior. On the other hand, my husband was visibly nervous due to having far more dislikes and preferences than I possess myself.
I made the kitchen aware of my tomato allergy upon our arrival. Still, I made no mention of Mr Wilson-Barrett’s hatred for seafood and any fish that isn’t heavily battered and served alongside a portion of chips.
Lo and behold, and much to my delight, our first dish of the evening was the Pan-Seared Scallops starter. I will almost always order a seafood starter when we dine out and scallops are one of my all-time favourite ways to begin a meal.
Seeing my husband slice effortlessly into the remarkably plump disc of deliciousness and eat probably the first seafood he has eaten since we met 12 years ago, was utterly delightful!
He polished off the lot without a grimace and agreed that scallops are indeed sweet and succulent treasures from the sea rather than just being slimy and overpoweringly ‘fishy’. The ones we had been served were also particularly fine examples and were seated upon a bed of velvety parsnip puree which complemented them beautifully.
Our next course was Dakota Grill’s new Herb Gnudi starter and it was simply divine! Fluffy potato dumplings were enveloped in a rich and silky spinach sauce which was also scattered with slithers of smoked pancetta and crunchy walnuts. The whole dish was then generously topped with grated parmesan. It was my husband’s favourite dish of the evening and definitely one I’d love to try and recreate at home. Warming and comforting, it’s perfect for this time of year.
The third and final starter was a duo of Spiced Monkfish Pakoras with a syrupy mango chutney and a sprinkling of crispy wild rice. The batter was golden and bubbly and delivered a lovely hit of spice without stealing the limelight from the meaty and flavoursome chunks of monkfish it encased. A beautiful and surprisingly light starter that we both thoroughly enjoyed.
Following a much-welcomed pause between starters and main courses, we were presented with the next dish – Corn-Fed Chicken with Artichoke, Baby Leek and Parma Ham Dauphinoise. By this time I was beginning to feel quite full and had told myself to eat only a few mouthfuls of the next few courses. I fell at the first hurdle as this chicken dish was sublime! The chicken breast was remarkably succulent and a delight to eat on its own but the accompanying slithers of potato and salty parma ham in the creamiest of sauces made the dish rather difficult to stop eating.
Next up, was another fish dish. I’d assured my husband prior to eating the scallop starter that he would be pleasantly surprised and did not need to approach it like it was a bushtucker trial. For this course, however, we were served Stone Bass and it’s a fish I had yet to try myself so couldn’t tell him what to expect. Mr Wilson-Barrett tucked straight in and immediately declared it wasn’t to his liking. It was a tad too ‘fishy’ for him which is entirely fair considering he doesn’t really like fish at all. I, on the other hand, thought it was delicious and actually quite subtle in flavour. The skin was wonderfully crispy too so the textures were nicely balanced.
Our last main course was the one which I would have ordered had we visited for a standard three-course meal. I have fond memories of the steaks at Dakota Grill being juicy and packed with flavour so had high expectations for the Grilled Beef Sirloin with Charred Shallot and Chimichurri. It did not disappoint – the meat was served pink as we requested and seasoned to perfection.
After six incredible savoury dishes, it was time to sample a couple of Dakota’s sweeter offerings. The last time we visited, we found ourselves unexpectedly needing to rush back to Skipton following our main courses so we didn’t get the chance to try desserts. Despite being quite uncomfortably full, we were keen to try a couple on this occasion.
The first dessert was a Sticky Toffee Pudding served with vanilla ice-cream and a bourbon butterscotch sauce. Although one of my favourite desserts, especially on a cold autumn evening, I often find this traditional sponge dessert to be a tad heavy so would normally order one to share between two. This was like no other Sticky Toffee Pudding I have tried before. Instead of a dense sponge laden with dates and drenched in a thick toffee sauce, it was as light as a feather and nowhere near as sickly sweet.
Our second dessert and final course of the evening was a Milk Chocolate Tart – a buttery pasty case filled with an indulgent but not-to-rich ganache and then topped with blackberries. A delicious way to finish what was by far one of our most enjoyable dining experiences of the year!
If you are planning your next romantic date night or looking for somewhere to celebrate a special occasion with loved ones, I highly recommend booking a table at Dakota Grill. The food, of course, was exquisite but the service was also exceptional for the duration of our evening.
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