My first al fresco dining experience for 2023 was far more luxurious than I anticipated it to be. Like many Brits, I have a tendency to head to my local pub for a quick bite to eat and an ice-cold beer when the mercury rises and the sun sets later in the day. This year, however, an invitation to dine at one of the most stylish hotels in Leeds led me with my husband and having a more intimate and memorable experience.
There are just five of these luxury boutique hotels in the UK and only two of them are in England. The brand was created by Glasgow-born hotelier Ken McCulloch and after achieving much success above the border, Dakota Hotels opened awe-inspiringly stylish venues in both Manchester and Leeds.
I’ve walked past Dakota Leeds on numerous occasions, usually whilst on my way to review other venues in the city. Although intentionally designed to be unobtrusive, it’s evident when walking past Dakota Leeds that it is by no means your average hotel. The regular comings and goings of immaculately tailored suits and luxury sports cars signify the four-star status of this prestigious city centre hotel, even if one fails to pay attention to the contemporary opulence of its exterior styling.
The Terrace at Dakota Bar & Grill Leeds
Inside, Dakota’s Bar & Grill was everything I expected it to be. Low lighting, dark walls, a striking marble-top bar and glimmering gold accents combined to provide a glamorous and sophisticated ambience for those seemingly indulging in post-work drinks and out-of-hours meetings. After being led through the bar to our table, my husband and I were delighted to discover that we had the enclosed section of the Greek Street terrace to ourselves.
Elegantly styled with modern furniture, decorative botanical displays, fluffy throws and twinkling fairy lights; we couldn’t have wished for a more enchanting city-centre setting for our date night.
Our server introduced herself gracefully and soon made her professionalism and extensive knowledge of all the dishes and drinks on Dakota’s menus apparent. Recommendations were shared with genuine enthusiasm and we were soon salivating over the venue’s new and exciting Al Fresco Terrace menu. After much deliberation, my husband decided to whet his whistle with a pint of lager whilst I succumbed to the temptations of Hacien Pineapple paired with ginger ale.
Al Fresco Dining at Dakota Bar & Grill Leeds
Before our starters arrived, a complimentary dish was brought to us from the kitchen. Unfortunately, it arrived before the information regarding my tomato intolerance had been relayed to the team so I didn’t have the pleasure of sampling the main element of the dish. However, my husband had no issue mopping up the rich tomato sauce and molten cheese with slices of the perfectly baked miniature wholemeal boule. I, on the other hand, happily nibbled away on the bowl of olives I was given as an alternative.
Our starters arrived as soon as the last morsel of bread had been devoured. My husband’s Crab Croquettes were served with a rich romesco and a creamy cauliflower puree. Crisp on the outside and boasting velvety soft centres, each was packed with flavour without being ‘too fishy’. Mr Wilson-Barrett would never normally order shellfish of any variety so I was not only surprised by his choice but utterly astounded by how much he enjoyed it.
My starter was equally well constructed but boasted more delicate flavours; wafer-thin ribbons of Iberico ham, cubes of subtly sweet melon and shavings of nutty manchego cheese. A delicious and season-appropriate way to start my meal at Dakota Leeds.
Quite predictably, we both chose steak for our main courses – Fillet for Mr Wilson-Barrett and Ribeye for myself. With one of my all-time favourite steak restaurants situated just across the street, I was eager to see how the steaks at Dakota Bar & Grill compared.
There are a number of sauces and sides you can add to your cuts which are far preferable, in my opinion, to the standard mushroom and tomato combo that comes as standard at many restaurants. My husband ordered his fillet steak with a portion of smoked maple bacon and a serving of peppercorn sauce and he enjoyed it immensely. His steak could be sliced like butter and required no additional seasoning.
My ribeye, which is always my go-to cut, was topped with three plump king prawns and a serving of melted garlic butter. Again, beautifully succulent and seasoned to perfection. Our chosen sides of Truffle & Parmesan Sides and Caesar Salad complemented both steaks well and there was enough of both to ensure neither of us remained hungry when all the plates had been cleared.
Being a school night, we had no time to stay for dessert but the cocktails we ordered with our mains enabled us to end our impressive dining experience on a sweet note. My swamp-green Matcha Picchu cocktail was a creamy and delicious blend of Tonka Bean Bacardi, coconut milk, pretzel syrup, matcha and coconut cream. It tasted better than it looked! Mr Wilson-Barrett chose the citrusy Red Moon which features Orange Marmalade Vodka, pomegranate and hibiscus. Again, an enjoyable cocktail.
My husband and I have been married for almost a decade. We both work full-time and we have a young son who keeps us busy also. Romantic date nights such as this are few and far between. In fact, I don’t think we had one at all for the first 6 years after becoming parents. The secret garden-style terrace setting combined with the faultless service and unfussy yet beautifully executed dishes, made this a date night we won’t forget in a hurry.
I fell a little bit in love with Dakota during this first visit and I think we may just have found the place where we want to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversay. A sincere thank you to the team at Dakota Leeds who made our evening such a memorable one.
I highly recommend booking a table at Dakota Bar & Grill to experience the superb service and delicious food first-hand. If evening dining isn’t your thing, then I have it on good authority that Dakota also serves beautiful brunches and one of the best afternoon teas in Leeds.
This article was written and published following an invitation to dine at Dakota Bar & Grill in Leeds. An invitation to dine does not guarantee the publication of a review as we only do so if our overall experience has been a positive one. The companies we promote in such reviews have no editoral control over the content that we share.