Thursday, 7 September 2017

Dakota Deluxe - Leeds





When it comes to hotels Leeds isn’t short of them, however, in the city centre the chains dominate. You’ll find hotels that you will find in larger cities in the UK, such as The Hilton, The Radisson, The Marriot, Travelodge and Etap for those on a smaller budget. The city was lacking in boutique, luxury hotels, until Dakota Deluxe arrived spring 2017.

Dakota Deluxe is a brand of hotels that comes from the same company that brought Malmaison to the UK, which at the time was the first hotel brand in the UK for 30 years. Dakota is relatively small in their offering so far, with only three other branches, one in Edinburgh and two in Glasgow.

The ‘Deluxe’, which is what we have in Leeds, is a more refined version than its airport counterparts. The brand hopes to open more Deluxe hotels in city centres throughout the UK, I feel proud that they chose Leeds as one of their first.


The entrance to DD is from Bond Court, with the newly pedestrianised Greek Street this makes sense. The building is sleek and mysterious with a twinge of art deco about its architecture. As I walk inside I feel like I’ve walked in to a secret club in the depths of New York City (the nice part). The shades are down and the mood lighting is on. I’m immediately greeted and asked if they can take my bags to my room for me despite having not found out myself what room I am staying in.

There is a small scruffy looking dog sat beside the check in desk, on second glances I realise it’s a stuffed toy. Peculiar a hotel reception area and I’m still trying to put my finger on why this is on theme, it’s a cute addition nevertheless.

We check in and I’m handing two door keys, we take the lift to the 7th floor. The lights remain dim, so much so I can’t see myself in the mirror within the lift. It adds an air of mystery and wonder, why is it so dark?

The air con is on when we enter the room, it’s a fairly warm day so we’re grateful for the cool breeze that’s wafting through. The room is small in comparison to what you can book for a similar price elsewhere in the city, whether you’ll get the same quality is up for debate. The shutters are open and the lights are on but yet it’s still dark in our room. The moody atmosphere is suitable for our stay, dinner and drinks in the city, if you’re staying and not heading out of the hotel in the evening make sure you put your glasses on when you leave to combat the glare from the sun.



Each room comes with a full Sky TV package and a 49 inch HD TV, the Sky TV actually works unlike some other hotels I’ve stayed in. The bed is a double, it feels in comparison to our king-size at home but it’s so comfortable that when we do eventually bed down for the night we fall asleep almost immediately and the size doesn’t matter.



We’re staying in the classic room, the cheaper option but it still comes with a media hub (place to plug in your devices), desk, waterfall shower and kettle. If you upgrade to one of the more expensive rooms you can benefit from a Nespresso machine, a more spacious room, a fully stocked mini bar and if you’re really pushing the boat out you can get a suite with walk in wardrobe and a bath.




Despite overlooking offices and student accommodation the rooms are deadly quiet and the blacked out windows provide a sense of comfort that no one is going to catch an eyeful when you walk out of the shower. The bath towels are the biggest I’ve seen.


I’m impressed by the bathroom, not only for the towels and despite its size. The shower is easy to use and water pressure if high making for a refreshing bathe. The complimentary bath products are home branded and are actually rather nice, I debated bagging them to use at home and I’m regretting it now. They wouldn’t reuse them for another customer right?



There’s an added bonus of a ‘night time’ light switch for the bathroom so you’re not blinded when you need to get up at 4am for a pee.



We’ve got dinner reservations in the hotel restaurant at 6.30pm, we head downstairs and are greeted everywhere we go by friendly staff members wanting to help. We’re shown to a booth that has been set for two people. The lighting remains moody and dark.

An enthusiastic waiter comes to offer us menus and asks if we would like a pre-dinner tipple, we’ll just have some wine with our dinner but a bottle of still water would be lovely.

Not your average pre-dinner bread, here it comes with tomato and mozzarella 

The menu isn’t overcomplicated, they’ve chosen to open a grill. It’s a bold move when the hotel is next door to the steak restaurant Blackhouse, at the top of the street is an Argentinian steakhouse, Gaucho and two streets along is Stockdale’s of Yorkshire. Despite the oversaturation of steak in this end of Leeds the restaurant slowly gathers pace until a large (and loud) group of around 15 people join the restaurant and pretty much destroy the ambiance with their swearing, shouting across the table and general larriness (sit down and stop bending over the chair behind you, I don’t need to see your pants through your tights this evening, thank you).

Back to the menu, the starters consist of mainly seafood with a couple of vegetarian dishes and beef tartare. We opt for one fish and one vegetarian to share between us.

The fried scallops with parsnip puree and curried oil doesn’t really win dish of the night for me. I’m not too sure about the compatibility of the scallop and the oil and I get quick a bit of grit with my share of the scallop. D doesn’t seem to mind either.



The crispy goat’s cheese which comes with beetroot, melon and walnuts is far better than the scallop dish. It’s refreshing and not too heavy with an equal balance of sweet and savoury.



From the grill I order the Yorkshire Lamb Rump. It comes medium rare, I’m not asked of my preferences, it’s easy to cut in to and the lamb is full of flavour. I order sides of minted Jersey Royals and honey roasted carrots. The red wine jus tastes just like gravy (my working class roots are screaming “there’s no difference”) and so it feels like I’m enjoying a Sunday roast on a Saturday evening.





D orders the Rump Steak, I steer him away from the fillet even though it’s the more expensive option we learnt at one of those other steak restaurants that this isn’t our first preference in cuts of beef. The steak comes with a side of chips and so he just orders the broccoli hollandaise as a side. I try a mouthful of his steak and there is a lack of seasoning which leaves it tasting a little bland, we’ve made mental note to ask in future for the steak to be well seasoned before it’s cooked in the future. The chips shine above the steak in my eyes and I consume more of D’s chips than I do my own potatoes.




We’ve indulged a lot by this point, our carafe of Malbec is seeing its end and I’m left wondering if I really can fit a desert in? Don’t be silly, of course I can try.

The chap and I argue over wanting the same dessert, they’ve invited me to review we should try different dishes. It isn’t just a case of him not wanting me to delay his dessert by taking pictures, we do have very similar tastes when it comes to food.



I order first and then he replies with, “Make that two” and that is the end of that argument. We’ve chosen the raspberry and white chocolate slice with comes with not only raspberry sorbet but a white chocolate macaron too. In all honesty, this dish is so large that I could have shared it and end up leaving some whilst D scrapes his plate clean.

When we’ve finished eating we slowly head up to our room to sit and recuperate before heading out in to the Leeds nightlife scene. There are two bars in the hotel, the Greek Street Terrace and the Champagne bar but we’re drawn to the busy street outside and head in to The Alchemist for cocktails.

We return to our hotel room, three bars later and three sheets to the wind. Comfortably in our PJs we stick on the Sky TV, a novelty for us as we don’t have it at home and fall asleep watching Star Wars. We know how to live our 30s in style.



It’s hard to wake in the morning as the room is one like one big black out blind. Around 9am I can hear other guests starting to stir and make their way down to breakfast which is served until 10.30am on a weekend (10.00am on a weekday), only the raving mad get up at 7.30am on a Sunday for breakfast.

We head down for breakfast at around 9.45am, it’s served in the same restaurant as the night before. The lighting is still dipped but there are more guests present and no large groups creating a low mumble throughout the room rather than the rowdiness from the night before. We’re taking to our seats and handed menus with two options, continental (help yourself £10) or from the kitchen (cooked £15).



We order the same Yorkshire breakfast, D’s without mushrooms. We’re offered toast and I find myself finishing before I realise I’ve taken a bite. We play it safe and order a pot of tea, the coffee brand isn’t published on the menu but I noticed in our room that Tailors of Harrogate tea was present and so this seems like a safer option.



After a little bit of a wait our breakfasts are brought to us, one without mushrooms and one without black puddings. D tries to explain it should just be one without mushrooms and I try to explain that I don’t mind not having black pudding as I’ve never been its greatest fan and the waitress scuttles off without confirming. When she reappears neither of the breakfasts have mushrooms and both have black puddings. I’m starving I don’t want it to disappear again so I settle for what I have. I would have liked some sauce but she’s scuttled off again before I can open my mouth. It’s a while before another member of staff passes us and by this time my breakfast is half finished so I give up on the sauce and settle for trying to wet the rest of dry plate with the yolk and the half a tomato on my plate.

D asks if he could have an orange juice and he’s told him could help himself from the breakfast bar (which we’d previously not been introduced to) but now there isn’t any left.

Shortly after breakfast we check out and then head to La Bottega Milanese for a proper coffee and to pass the time before it’s time to catch the train home.




The prices compare with the likes of Doubletree and The Radisson Blu, if I were to choose to stay in Leeds city centre on this budget I’d choose Dakota Deluxe over both. I’m not one for staying in a new city and constraining myself to the hotel, if you’re like me here are some recommendations that you might like to try.




Breakfast

La Bottega Milanese - You can literally roll out of the hotel in to La Bottega Milanese, in my opinion they do some of the best coffee in Leeds. Their breakfast selection includes pastries, porridge and Italian sweets. Admittedly I’ve also had a Nutella muffin for breakfast here too.

Banyan – Breakfast is served until 11am and includes brunching favourites such as avocado on toast and pancakes.

Manahatta – fitting in with the theme of the hotel next door, breakfast is again served until 11am on weekends and includes

Beckett’s Bank – if you’ve had a very heavy night and you need a ‘proper’ fry up head to the local Wetherspoon’s which only a stagger away from the hotel is. Expect weekend drinkers if you head in after 10am.





Lunch

The Tiled Hall Café – possibly one of the most beautiful places to eat lunch in Leeds. A former restored reading room that was covered up by plasterboard for decades it now shines brightly once more and offers a range of salads and sandwiches.

The Liquorist – go during the week and you can benefit from their £5.95 lunch deal. It’s cheap and cheerful but it hits the spot.

Gusto – looking for something a little more upmarket then head to Gusto, again this is right next door to the hotel. Enjoy Italian dining in a lavishly decorated restaurant then head back to bed after a carb overload.

The Alchemist – if you like a cocktail with your lunch head to the Liquorist to try one of their weird and spectacular concoctions. They also do brunch if you’re looking for hair of the dog.


Dinner

Blackhouse – as mentioned above there are a lot of places to eat steak on this side of town. Blackhouse does it well, if you’re not in a large group and requested to eat from a set menu and pay a larger service charge. During the week there is also a lunch deal for £14.95 which includes one dish and a glass of wine.

Gaucho – it looks a little garish inside but the steak is definitely some of the best in Leeds. If you’re looking for events to attend (stag or hen parties prick up your ears) then it’s worth enquiring about some of the cooking courses (where you get to eat a lot of steak).

Tattu – One of the newest additions to Leeds, it’s described as an upmarket Chinese restaurant with small plates. Review coming soon…

Sous Le Nez – I’ve not been to one of Leeds’ longest standing French restaurants for a number of years, it’s well loved, hence why it’s still there, and serves the traditional dishes of confit de canard as well as more unknown French dishes.


The Sights

Leeds Town Hall – One of the oldest buildings in Leeds, it’s impressive to look at with its impressive Greek styled columns. Keep an eye on their website for tours of the vaults, cells and the clock tower. There are events held here several times a year including Leeds Beer Festival, Leeds Loves Cocktails and various vintage fairs.

Leeds City Museum – at the time of writing it is free entry, these days it’s more catered towards children with lots of interactive things to get involved with. Active learning and all that.

Leeds Art Gallery, Henry Moor Institute and the Tiled Hall Café – at the time of writing the art gallery is closed for repairs but it’s set to open again in October 2017. As above it’s worth popping your head in to the Tiled Hall Café even if you don’t stop for anything more than a coffee.

Park Square – The legal and financial district of the town, what was once gentry’ townhouses lies barrister chambers, solicitors and accountancy firms. Despite this they have a wonderfully green square which you can easily while away the afternoon in whilst looking up at the impressive architecture.



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