SINK your teeth into our new online feature where we give you the skinny on the eateries in the Dispatch district, starting this week with the DAKOTA BAR & GRILL near Annesley.
THE ETHOS of the Dakota, which is housed within a Holiday Inn hotel close to junction 27 of the M1, is ‘no compromise and no corners cut’.
And that is certainly the feel you get from the moment you walk through the door and glide through an entrance into the bar, which is packed with contemporary style and ambiEnt lighting.
Staff are on hand to greet you with a conscientious ‘evening, sir’. Yet, which is something I appreciated, didn’t feel it necessary to crowd you into rushing your order or speedily beat a path to your table.
After a crisp white wine in the bar area where I could share the events of the day with my dining partner for the evening, it was time to put the real reason for visiting the restaurant to the test — the food.
But just as an aside before I get to the meal. For a restaurant that caters for quite a few diners, it is nice to find yourself in a space that isn’t crowded with tables and that is designed in such a way that it promotes intimacy for its guests, rather than claustrophobia or separation.
When it comes to ingredients, this is where the Dakota says it accepts no compromise.
Key is seasonal produce brought in from all across Britain with fish served on the very day it is caught by Scottish fishermen and the steaks — a predictable speciality of a venue with the word grill in its moniker — all 28-day aged Derbyshire beef.
For my starter, I opted for creamy wild mushrooms served on chunky toast in a delicious, herb-infused sauce.
Any fears of the bread being soaked by the binding liquor or the sauce being too insipId to cope with the earthy flavours of the mushrooms were soon dispelled by an opening act that combined salty flavours with creamy smoothness.
The starter was accompanied by olives marinated in garlic and herbs and a bread selection, among which the star of the show was undoubtedly the rye incarnation.
My only gripe would be that, as a diner, you have to pay for your bread as it doesn’t come as an accompaniment as stock.
Next it was on to my main course featuring a fillet of seabass perched atop a golden mound of saffron risotto.
Again this was delicious with the fish flaky and cooked to perfection.
The risotto was perhaps a little al dente for my liking, but nevertheless retained its creamy texture and individual flavour.
Accompanying new potatoes offered a fine udnerstudy.
With the ample portions, two courses would perhaps. ordinarily, have quenched my appetite.
But, discarding the desserts — perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth nonetheless with options including sticky toffee pudding and vanilla creme brulee — I headed straight for the cheeseboard to test the assertion that the Dakota specialises in local produce.
What I tucked into was a fine trio featuring Cropwell Bishop stilton — punchy and acidic, yet with an inate creaminess — Lancashire Poacher’s cheddar with its acidic, crumbly bite and Somerset brie with a distinctive flavour only found in British cheeses.
Accompanied with a bottle of sauvignon blanc from a comprehensive wine list and finished off with a hot, dark coffee, the meal ticked many boxes.
Staff worked well together with a quiet efficiency, diners were allowed to enjoy at their own pace and, overall, a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5