WE’VE been up to Glasgow to check out the food and facilities at the Dakota Hotel Not just a jolly – serious research ahead of the May launch of a Manchester Dakota (below) by the same folk.
That will be located on Ducie Street, alongside Piccadilly Basin, on a stretch which is looking like a ‘Hotel Quarter’ with La Reserve Aparthotel and the much anticipated arrival of fellow aparthotel brand Go Native in the old Place Apartments Space in the London Warehouse.
And, of course, just across the Store Street continuation from each other are the Doubletree by Hilton and the Malmaison. Which brings us neatly to the latter chain’s founder Ken McCulloch, who these days is the man behind Dakota.
At the Deluxe Glasgow the 70-year-old entrepreneur hosted us with a canny ebullience reminiscent of fellow Glaswegian Sir Alex Ferguson.
“We’re so excited about coming to Manchester,” says Ken. “Great cities deserve great hotels. We passionately care about what we do, and we try to do things that the big boys can’t. We do things from the heart, we do it because we care. We do it because we’re enthusiasts. It’s not done to margins.”
The chic Dakota interior eerily echoes the original Malmaison template, too. As does quality of the food and wine offering in its Bar & Grill with the bespoke Champagne Bar and Cuban Cigar Terrace a definite upgrade. The Manchester version will feature classy clones of these spaces, seating 100 in the Grill – with subtle architectural differences since it is a £30m eight storey new-build – along with 137 bedrooms, rates starting at £150, and 20 large, luxury suites by acclaimed designer (and Ken’s wife, Amanda Rosa).
It’s now 20 years since McCulloch sold on the Malmaison brand and our food experiences at the Manchester and other of their hotels has been mixed. Indeed, there has been an identity crisis in all our city’s hotel dining rooms with an often Identikit ‘Brasserie style’ menus.
Gone are the days when The Lowry, with a chef like Eyck Zimmer at the helm, and the Abode, its menus curated by Michael Caines, could claim to be destination restaurants rather than mere hotel feeding stations. The French under Simon Rogan and latterly Adam Reid bucked the dumbing down trend big time but it is hardly The Midland Hotel’s dining room, more a separate project, adding culinary cachet to a more corporate operation.
Nothing wrong with corporate mind. Maybe The Doubletree by Hilton’s Store Street restaurant/‘craft beer’ bar rebrand and the Radisson Edwardian’s less successful Japanese-meets-Mexican Peter Street Kitchen haven’t raised the current bar, as they’d hoped, but ToM has been impressed by two recent arrivals.
Andrew Green has upped his game since leaving the Lowry Hotel’s River Room Restaurant to put his stamp on Mamucium at the new Hotel Indigo next to Victoria Station and The Laureate at the swish Crowne Plaza – Oxford Road.
The Dakota offering is even more impressive on the evidence of our Glasgow tasting menu, food being Taste of Manchester’s obvious imperative. Scottish produce was much in evidence but we are assured this will be supplemented by locally sourced raw materials,
Seafood, always a plus, meant a best of Scotland cold platter followed sumptuous Gigha halibut. Our main was fillet of Borders beef and for pud an apple crumble souffle. None of this mega fancy, just satisfying – like the hotel itself.
“Our emphasis with our food offering is doing a simple thing brilliantly,” operations manager Andrew Ovenstone told us. “We will look to celebrate local Manchester suppliers. We like to look backwards for inspiration so our cocktail menu and bar offering is very classic and quite romantic in that sense.”
He added: “Manchester gives us the opportunity to put ourselves on the map because it’s a city that’s on the world stage with a huge media presence and a vibrant bar and restaurant scene with lots of independents.”
The launch mantra adopted for this fifth Dakota is ‘Manchester. I like Your Style’. Well, Taste of Manchester likes their style – luxury boutique but with a lot of old school soul.
IN 1936 the Dakota airliner made its maiden flight from New York to Chicago and went on to revolutionise air travel, offering stylist service and cabin accommodation at an affordable price. Once a privilege of the rich and famous, Dakota broke the mould inspiring today’s Dakota Hotels brand. Manchester will be the fifth hotel in the group. The ‘original’ hotels are located at Forth Bridge, Edinburgh and Eurocentral – a modern business estate equidistant between Glasgow & Edinburgh. Dakota Glasgow opened in 2016 with Leeds following one year later. Future sites are in the pipeline as the group continue to target key cities in the UK. All interior shots are of Glasgow Dakota Deluxe.