Richard Miller investigates whether Craig Rogan is a chip off the old block
Whether it’s the gazillion course tasting menu that we all pretend to enjoy, or the usual overpriced and under-portioned “brasserie” suspects, I doubt it’s just me who finds that eating in a half-empty hotel restaurant can be a contentious experience. That said, I do have a hash-brown habit that only a budget buffet breakfast can fix.
There’s nothing budget about glitzy Dakota Deluxe, the clue’s in the name, and in an effort to redefine the food offering the high-end Leeds hotel appointed Simon “L’Enclume” Rogan’s lad, Craig, to head up the Dakota Grill’s pan-gang shortly before all The Stuff happened.
Long may this piquant schnitzel live deep within my pores
Taking advantage of a rare balmy evening we ate outside on the terrace; a chic, slender strip with prime views over an effervescent Piazza del Greek Street. On a previous visit the gloomy lighting inside - less moody, more mardy - meant it was difficult to identify precisely what we were shovelling into our faces. Tonight’s natural ambience allowed us to see exactly what’s what, and the Dakota Grill certainly knows how to grab your attention.
After wodges of bouncy, homemade focaccia, smooshed with husky butter and crispy onions, we landed a neat brace of brisket and bone marrow “reuben” croquettes (£10). In two breadcrumbed torpedoes, some genius in the kitchen has managed to encapsulate the essence of a dive bar burger joint and repackage it for a luxe-hotel crowd without losing any of the soul or the spirit.
Once shattered, that crisp exterior gave way to a slurry of deeply bovine, liberally seasoned corned beef that oozed out over the plate. Zigzagged over the top, and lending the whole thing a touch of the Twister ice-cream, a luminous cheese sauce added a honking sharpness. A fine ensemble of crunch, mush, fat and tang.
To the croquettes’ in-yer-face yin came a goats cheese salad with a more hushed, urbane yang (£9). Alongside the silky fromage, rosy-hued heritage beetroot had been deployed in various guises - a crisp here, a leaf there - for a sharp, clean take on the crowd-pleasing classic.
We sensed the perfectly crozzled chicken schnitzel before we set eyes on it (£23). With its hefty drenching of garlicky butter, plus pungent additions of wild mushroom, hummy leeks and - our narcissistic old pal the truffle - I reckon most of Leeds got a whiff, too. Mask-less for the first time in months, this could’ve been sensory overload, but those Dakota punches landed with exacting precision and it was a knockout. Long may this piquant schnitzel live deep within my pores.
Fish cooking is similarly stellar. A cuboid of cod yielded to the slightest hint of fork-work, with thin disks of toothy Yorkshire chorizo leaching its warm, rust-stained oil into the flesh (£25). Allotment-fresh peas popped with summer brightness.
From a wine list that dispenses with the small talk and gets to the point quick-smart, a bottle of entry-level dry Riesling (£28) sat well with the scran.
I’ll forgive the chips that were cut too thickly and too uniformly. This is, after all, a posh gaff where finesse counts, and beyond their polite visage the buff spuds were hot and fluffy in all the right places (£4). On the grounds of being overpoweringly sweet, a bowl of maple glazed carrots (£5) were left unfinished.
On hindsight, a rib-sticking peach melba crumble was an odd choice for such a humid Leeds evening, but that decision’s on me (£8). The hybrid dessert of cold ice cream and hot jammy peach, separated by a layer of crunchy oats, is a holy trinity of texture that always works.
More appropriate was a lavish dark chocolate marquise (£9). Yes, it sounds fancy and yes, it looked a picture (all of the dishes look a picture, actually) but, with its bracing hit of refreshing mint, it brought to mind a souped-up mint Aero. This, of course, is no bad thing.
Sitting outside, the Dakota Grill feels more like a relaxed neighbourhood bistro than another soulless hotel restaurant. Rogan’s food is polished but punchy throughout, and serious enough to impress without being too earnest or laboured. I’ve checked and, alas, hash browns do not make an appearance on the breakfast menu. When everything else is this good, that's a quibble I can live with.
Dakota Grill, Greek St, Leeds LS1 5R
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Croquettes 9, Goats cheese 8, Cod 8, Schnitzel 9, Chips 7, Carrots 5, Peach melba 8, Chocolate 9
Smooth and sociable.
Elegant terrace with Friday night Greek street vibes.