Dakota Manchester hotel review: a stylish stay in a city on the up
The hotel is extremely slick, the restaurant is a cracker – and the shower is just ‘brilliant’
Dakota’s location is nigh perfect for an exploration of Manchester. It’s a few minutes from Piccadilly station and the Northern Quarter, and Ancoats – arguably the most exciting food postcode in the UK right now – is a stone’s throw in the other direction. Heading to the Etihad Stadium? That’s just a short stroll down the canal or a direct tram ride away.
The buildings surrounding the hotel reflect Manchester’s industrial history, but the city’s renaissance is evident in what’s happened to many of them over the last ten years or so. Dakota itself is an extremely slick, very neatly designed hotel – ideal for business and leisure travellers alike.
Why come here?
Well, Manchester is a city on the up. Or, possibly more accurately, a city that was on the up a few years ago and is now maintaining impressive levels of appeal. There’s a distinctive energy here, bags of history, a thriving arts and cultural scene, some stellar eating opportunities, great public transport… and, in Dakota Manchester, you have a cool-but-approachable hotel in which to stay while you embrace it all.
It’s a stylish place. Initially, with my distinctly un-thin and not-so-beautiful appearance, I feel like a complete outsider. I arrive early, a little sweaty after yomping across the city, but don’t even make it to the reception before the doorman and another security gent block my path. They tell me that check-in is at 3pm, making it rather clear that I don’t belong. It’s not an impressive start.
But, when I return (well after 3pm because us non-glam types can’t be too careful), make it to my room and enjoy the interior, the facilities, the bar, the restaurant and the cigar terrace, I realise that Dakota must get any number of chancers trying to blag their way into the building. It’s easy to overwrite my initial impression.
My room is standard-sized but spacious and full of things that suggest the designer has actually stayed in a modern hotel... or eight. The bed is vast and comfortable, while the bathroom is impressively spacious with large (100ml) bottles of shampoo and shower gel that make a welcome change from the teeny, tiny, barely-washes-an-arm tubes you get elsewhere. The double doors are also a fine touch, allowing me to indulge in some dramatic, Western-style entrances every time I need a wee.
I must also wax lyrical about the shower. I’ve been to many hotels where working the shower requires a plumbing qualification, a puzzle-solving mind, the strength of Samson – or any combination of the above. At Dakota, the shower has clear on and off buttons, a blue dot, a red dot and a very obvious dial that points between the two. Most importantly, the controls are all on the back wall (the opposite side to the faucet), so you can turn the shower on and get it to the right temperature without getting wet. It’s brilliant.
Eating and drinking
As mentioned, Manchester is not short on great places to eat, and there are many within a few minutes’ stroll. I love the juxtaposition of Mana (Manchester’s first Michelin-starred restaurant at £185 a head without drinks) being located right next to The Hip Hop Chip Shop, where you can eat very good fried things and listen to hip hop for about £15pp.
But even though you have a wealth of culinary options on your doorstep, you don’t necessarily need them. The hotel’s restaurant, the Dakota Grill, is a cracker. The menu is straightforward and crowd-pleasing, but very well executed. Steaks are decent (and, in the case of the £150 Wagyu, one hopes very decent), while side dishes are excellent and generously portioned (a very good thing when it comes to the glossy, rich joys of Parmentier potatoes, bacon, shallot and cheddar). If you think this sounds meat-heavy, you’re right – but there is an entirely separate vegetarian menu too.
Several wines on the list are only affordable for Premier League players, but there are also some real bargains. I had my first positive British red wine experience thanks to the very knowledgeable staff and F&B manager: a glass of Rabbit Hole Pinot Noir from Simpsons Estate in Kent.
And then there’s the cigar menu. And the cigar terrace. The nearby humidor is a thing of beauty, there are drinks and cocktails specifically tailored to maximise your enjoyment of your cigar and the space itself is comfortable, sheltered and well-ventilated. If I lived in Manchester, I fear for the amount of money I could drop here…
What to do?
Explore Manchester. Whatever your interests – culture, art, music, food, sport, shopping, etc – this city has got you covered. The nearby Northern Quarter is dotted with quirky shops, plus museums, galleries and great eating spots, and the craft beer scene is thriving here. All in all, Dakota is a relaxing, sensibly priced and classy base from which to enjoy it all.
Rooms at Dakota Manchester start from £144; dakotahotels.co.uk