Dakota Grill is housed in a stylish Leeds city centre hotel and it has food to match, writes Elaine Lemm. Pictures by Bruce Rollinson.

Dakota Grill, Leeds
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Dakota Grill.

There has been a flurry of plaudits and stars fluttering around restaurant businesses in recent weeks. Yorkshire gained a Michelin Star and lost one (we still have five), the county boasts eight entries in the top 100 National Restaurant Awards and 76 in the 2020 Good Food Guide. With over 7,000 places to eat here, that leaves an awful lot of unrecognised chefs and eateries. I come across them often and wonder how come they slip through the net or is it just a case of he who shouts loudest?
Chef Craig Rogan is one such chef; he rarely pops above the parapet of celebrity. Yet his CV boasts names to make my gastronomic heart flutter; L’Enclume in Cartmel, Manchester House and Fera at Claridge’s, London, are just a few. More recently he was head chef at the Grand Hotel in York, winning back 3 AA Rosettes for them. Now he is heading up the food in both the bar and restaurant at Dakota, the seriously stylish deluxe hotel on Greek Street in Leeds.
Being where it is in the heart of the city centre, on a Friday night Dakota bursts with energy in the street-facing cocktail bar, but our preference for pre-dinner drinks is the Salon Privé, a restrained jazz bar on the first floor. Here it is possible to escape the madness of Leeds nightlife, though a peep over the veranda will reconnect you to it but at a safe distance.

Chicken Breast Roasted in Lovage Butter

Taking the lift directly from the Salon to the Grill restaurant in the basement removes us further and we soon forget where we are as we sink into a spacious, curved booth with room for four, but set, as are most, just for two. The room, though windowless has soft, moody lighting, serious wall art and tables spaced at discreet distances. Front of house staff, though extremely attentive, seem to slip into the shadows, miraculously appearing when needed. At the end of a busy week, this is a wonderfully welcome, relaxed atmosphere for dinner.

There is a changing menu of just seven starters and mains and, though the choice may seem small, alongside is a grill menu of seriously good sounding steaks. We pass on delights like slow-cooked pork belly, bacon jam, lime and hazelnut; cod brandade; chicken liver parfait, damson and walnut.
Instead, it is a confit duck, beetroot and redcurrant, chicory and grilled gem lettuce that tempts (£10). There is a generous heap of tender, flavoursome duck interspersed with the other bits and pieces, the lightly-charred leaves add a tad of bitterness, and micro herbs are scattered on top. Nothing is trying too hard; the balance is perfect.
Salt-baked kohlrabi (£10) gets the same treatment. The kohlrabi cubes nestle into a bowl with the salty cheese, Shimeji mushrooms add flavour, sunflower seeds crunch. Not wanting to leave a speck behind, tempted though I was, I decided not to wipe out the bowl with my finger.
A tender breast of chicken roasted in lovage butter (£24) is a delicate combination with the Hens of the Wood mushrooms adding a subtle earthiness. Though my sister said she did not like crispy chicken skin, she ate these shards with relish.

King oyster mushrooms bolstered a seriously, sticky, tender piece of ox cheek cooked on the rare side (£24). The bed of pungent horseradish mash and lightly cooked alliums were flawless and, though the meat defeated me – only on the size, not the quality – this time I didn’t resist cleaning the plate.

The dessert menu of only five choices is seriously tempting, but we finally decide to share a buttermilk panna cotta with brown sugar, meringue and elderflower strawberries (£8). Two spoons in, laughing, we realised sharing was a mistake and Mum would have been proud how nicely we did. Undeniably a triumph of pudding in its precise cooking of the cream, nuances of flavour, and again, a perfect balance.
The food here is excellent. Craig had transformed it from my last visit a year ago. Yet, strangely, to have such a talented chef at the helm, and great team around both at the front and in the kitchen, it is surprising I cannot find mention of him or them anywhere on their website, I hope it is an oversight, they should be shouting from the rooftops or at least the veranda.

Oh, and by the way. Craig is also the son of one of the UK’s most famous chefs, Simon Rogan, which is great but only worth a passing mention, Craig is talented in his own right.
Dakota Grill, Greek Street, Leeds LS1 5RU. Tel: 0113 3226261.

About The Author

Following a successful career as a chef and restaurateur, Yorkshire's Elaine Lemm is a highly respected food and drink writer and recently voted one of the top 50 in the UK. Elaine is a member of the Guild of Food Writers and author of three books,The Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding, The Great Book of Rhubarb and The Great Book of Tea.

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