Restaurant review: Dakota Grill, Ducie Street, Manchester

Adam Lowe

I have fond memories of Ducie Street in Manchester city centre. My best friend and I lived there for many years, and our friends lived over the canal, overlooking us.

So when I returned – apparently completely out of the loop – to find the striking Dakota Hotel where the sandwich shop and carpark used to be, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Dakota Hotel, Manchester

Design-wise, think: the futuristic black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Or maybe it’s like a man from a romance novel: tall, dark and handsome. Either way, it’s enthralling.

The Dakota Bar offers a trendy, seductive space for cocktails or whiskey

A luxury boutique hotel, Dakota is already slaying its rivals – which isn’t bad for a city with its fair share of exquisite hotels. So it was about time we checked out the Dakota Grill, its in-house restaurant, and the launch of its new autumn menu was the perfect excuse.

The hotel and brasserie are named after the Dakota airliner, which launched in 1936 and revolutionised air travel – offering impeccable style at affordable prices. It’s no wonder the brand is soaring.

The restaurant

The Dakota Grill is a fiercely elegant 120-seat restaurant. It also has a lovely 74 -seat bar, a semi-private champagne lounge, a private dining space for up to 20 guests, a sheltered and extremely cosy Cigar Garden, and a cleverly secluded outdoor seating area overlooking the canal.

Dakota Grill - smoking lounge
The sheltered Cigar Garden at Dakota Grill is cosy with its olive trees, overhead vines, outdoor gas fires and soft furnishings

The Dakota Grill oozes ambience and style. This is due in no small part to the partnership of husband and wife team Ken McCulloch (owner) and Amanda Rosa (of Amanda Rosa Interiors, who designed all the hotels in the Dakota portfolio).

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Dakota Hotel - lobby
A waggy welcome awaits

Like the Malmaison brand, which McCulloch also owns, the hotel and brasserie are bold and utterly gorgeous. You really feel luxurious from the moment you enter, but there’s plenty of quality too – it’s not simply style over substance.

Under the direction of Head Chef Sam Karle, the Dakota Grill delivers a classic menu showcasing quality, seasonal produce at its best. There’s a richness and originality in the menu which makes it very appealing.

The choice of dishes is great, and between the two of us we would have tried every single one of them.

The cocktail menu is equally intriguing – with a sizeable choice, divided into various sections headed by famous quotes on life and cocktails (‘Here’s to alcohol, the rose coloured glasses of life’ – F. Scott Fitzgerald).

Dakota Grill - comfy dining booth
The booths have a nice intimate quality

We were seated in cosy booths with cushions, low lighting and plush upholstery. The service was prompt and impeccable. The afternoon was set for a wonderful adventure.

The food

We were started off with freshly baked bread, served with the restaurant’s signature tomato and goats cheese dip. It was a terrific start to the afternoon and it made a nice change to the butter or oil and balsamic you’d normally get with your bread course.


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Next we tried a couple of the cocktails. I had the Would I Lychee You Baby?, which is a blend of Tanqueray No. 10, rose and Lychee Briottet. It was sweet, fragrant and light. It paired well with my salad.


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We also tried The Soprano (which sounded a bit more butch). It was a great combination of Johnie Walker Black Label, Dalmore 12, Red Bush & Cacau Port and DOM Benedictine. It was a sophisticated, rich drink with bags of personality. It would pair well with red meat.


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For starters, we tried a gorgeously done crispy duck salad, on a bed of watermelon, spring onions, cashews and sesame. Sticky, rich, with a hint of tang, it was thoroughly delicious! The portion size was decent, too, so it would work alone for a light lunch.


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Next, we tried an enticing starter of succulent king scallops, tender Oriental mini ribs and crisp pork crackling. This made for a delightfully naughty pairing, which was much lighter than you’d expect but still really flavoursome. This was probably my favourite of the two starters.


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Other starter options included the tantalising pigeon with foie gras, confit duck and cep; and chicken liver parfait with fig jam and brioche. There was loads to choose from – and I can see myself returning sometime soon to try the rest.

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Our first main, meanwhile, was the lamb rump with tasty sweetbread, served with basil and goat’s cheese. The lamb was perfectly cooked, retaining its moisture and tenderness for a melt-in-the-mouth experience. The sweetbreads were nice little bites of wholesomeness that paired really well with the fragrance of the basil and goat’s cheese.

I ate every mouthful with utter relish!


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Our second main was the gorgeous 340g sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce and skinny fries.

This was a really tasty hunk of meat! It was well seasoned and cooked exactly as requested. The steak was grass-fed, 35-day aged and UK-bred.

The chips were super crunchy and delectable, and were a real highlight for me. The two worked well together: potato crunch and beef tenderness making a satisfying experience on the tongue.


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Additional mains include venison with kale, black pudding and blackberry; lemon sole with brown shrimp, capers and lemon; and short rib of beef with celeriac.

We were full but dessert was essential to our research! Dessert number one was a light and seductive vanilla souffle with rich chocolate sauce and pistachio ice cream. Pistachio ice cream is a favourite of mine, so this was really enjoyable, and it never felt like too much. There was a tiny hint of crumble to give it texture, too. The chocolate sauce was really exquisite and the souffle was a good choice to bring it all together, as it was a subtle, homely flavour.


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Our second dessert, and our finish dish of the afternoon, was a sumptuous chocolate mousse with blood orange and salted caramel. The orange and chocolate flavours were an obvious pairing, but the salted caramel gave them something distinct, which was very appealing. It was a great choice.

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Other interested dessert choices include peanut butter parfait with banana and strawberry, and caramel panna cotta with hazelnut and honeycomb.

The verdict

For a stylish evening with spectacular food and drink, Dakota Grill is the perfect city centre destination restaurant.

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About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people. He sometimes performs as Beyonce Holes.