Boasting killer looks and a vibe cooler than the golden age of Hollywood, Manchester just got lucky with the arrival of its newest luxury hotel. We checked into Dakota Manchester to discover where the £30 million investment went, and to find out if the cocktails, cuisine and hospitality could live up to the hype.
As a regular at Dakota Leeds, I already had an inkling that this place would deliver. And, with news that the groups fifth hotel would include 137 rooms, a Cigar Garden and the city’s largest penthouse suite, it was clear that this was to be Dakota’s most ambitious offering to date.
Located just five minutes from Piccadilly station on Ducie Street, the towering hotel impresses on first glance with its dark and moody exterior. The reception area too is drop-dead gorgeous. Dakota’s mascot, Chester the textile dog, props up a table featuring a vintage racing car, while a see-through fireplace crackles in the background.
The wow-factor continued in the Executive Suite, which featured an emperor sized bed, and a large lounge area complete with plush sofa and a complimentary mini-bar stocked with local gin and other boozy treats. Luxurious Scottish wool throws pay homage to the brands roots, which is just one of many small details that make an impact.
My favourite part of the suite had to be the two separate bathrooms. One of them comes with a huge walk-in shower, whilst the other has a marble rolltop bath and a dressing table. In short, the room was stunning and can only be beaten by the Big Ben suite at The Bells in Leeds (which comes at a much heftier price-tag I might add).
Dakota’s piece de la resistance, The Grand Deluxe Suite, includes two large bedrooms, a private wraparound balcony and a personal host for the entirety of your stay.
Back downstairs, we headed to the outdoor terrace to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails. This area is probably the most forgettable part of the hotel, although it’s perfectly spacious and pleasant enough. My guess is that the main focus has been on the adjoining Cigar Garden, which can only be accessed if you purchase a premium cigar from the hotel.
To some, this concept will seem a little outdated, whilst others will relish in it. Yes, it’s a little old school and very London, but Dakota as a brand seems to have a romance with the hey-day of Sinatra, Monroe et al. As a self-confessed Sinatra fan, I personally find this to be a huge part of Dakota’s charm, but it’s not to everyone’s taste.
That said, few could argue about the quality of the food and drink on offer. Our bartender whipped up a mean Old Fashioned from the Classics menu, while the Bobby Dazzler from the Contemporary section lived up to its name. Blending Bobby’s Gin with Tequila Cabeza Blanco, watermelon, basil, lime and almond, it was the best modern tipple I’ve tried in a long time.
The Dakota Grill turned out to be another highlight, and well worth a detour for locals favouring the trendier parts of town. The King Scallops were plump and meaty, arriving with Oriental ribs and pork crackling, whilst the Argyll Smoked Salmon was blessed with langoustine, avocado and orange.
From the main menu, the Pork Belly with soft-shell crab was melt-in-the-mouth tender, and served with girolles, celeriac and broadbeans. The Monkfish Curry too was to-die-for, and accompanied with raita and a tasty kachumba and mango chutney. Brilliant, imaginative and delicious, the cuisine is further enhanced by an excellent wine list with some gems at all price points.
Service throughout our entire stay was pitch-perfect. Polished, professional and yet personable, it never became intrusive or overly fussy. The only real shame was how quiet the hotel was, however, entirely forgivable as they had only been open for five days. Rumour has it the Spice Girls checked in for the Manchester leg of their tour, and I doubt they’ll be the last pop royalty members to bed down here post-gig.
When all is said and done, this is an exceptional hotel that deserves success. Whether you’re after a romantic weekend, a round of cocktails or an evening wining and dining VIP’s, you’ll find very little to grumble about in this sharp destination.
Dakota Manchester, 29 Ducie Street, Manchester, M1 2JL. Tel: 0161 674 9180.
This is an edited version of a review that first appeared in the early Summer edition of our magazine.