Like organ transplants and lion taming, cooking steak is something best left to the professionals. It's all too easy to start out with a vision of a perfectly seared wagyu fillet and end up with a kitchen full of greasy smoke. Luckily for us, The Dakota Grill has stepped in to bring the grills and skills to the meat lovers of Manchester.
As part of the chic Dakota Hotels group, the Dakota Grill is a ground-floor bar and restaurant, and found in one of the newest additions to Manchester’s clutch of luxury hotels. The outside is a gleaming black monolith hiding in the shadows of Piccadilly station. It’s a striking building, where sleek decor meets Vegas-style razzle-dazzle.
Inside, you’re led through a seductively moody maze of black wood and brown leather that gives the feels of a secret New York dining club. It’s a muted, adult experience where flickering candles and low-lit tables are populated with couples making hushed conversations. As hotel restaurants go, this is definitely not one for kids clubs and high chairs.
The menu is simple and restrained. Yes, there’s steak, but there’s also a sophisticated set of a la carte classics. First up, we’re handed a complimentary rock pool of cucumber and seaweed gazpacho along with a tasty Venetian dip that encompasses a rich tomato sauce which is loaded with salty cheese and accompanied by a boule of warm bread. It’s hard not to love anywhere that gives you freebies, especially when they’re the kind you’d usually pay handsomely for.
Starters of fritto misto (£10) and crispy duck salad (£9) are generous and show different sides to the kitchen’s international outlook. The first heads to Italy for its seafood, while the other looks East for a saucy number filled with nutty spice. Sirloin (£29) is a great hunk of glistening flesh that’s appealingly coal-charred on the outside, but still pinker than Barbie’s daydreams. It cuts with ease and yet has enough fibre to make the chew worthwhile. This is the steak experience you want; no fuss, all taste.
The halibut (£25) is well judged, with fish that’s both flaky and succulent. On the plate, there’s also two variations of cep mushrooms; a sweetish layer on the fish and a beautifully earthy, smoky puree on the side, then finished off with potato and decadent dabs of caviar that add a seasoned richness. The sides are excellent; fat chips (£4), salty courgette fritters (£4) and a minty kale gremolata (£4). The real star though is an al dente broccolini (£4) that’s soused in oil and loaded with garlic and chilli.
There’s a few different desserts but why would you overlook the chocolate delice and pistachio ice cream (£8)? The fondant is a squat, crusty tower that gives way to a glorious oil slick of melting chocolate sauce. The ice cream is slightly floral and not overly sweet. It’s a filling and satisfying end to a meal of generous, high-quality dishes in a stylish setting.
The DesignMyNight Digest
If you’re looking for a cool refuge from the busy city, then venture away from the typical spots. Given its location, even some of the city’s keenest gastronomes might miss The Dakota Grill, but that would be a mistake. This is the kinda grown-up grill where you can easily spend a sophisticated evening with friends or execute your date night in style.