When you reach a certain age, it seems to become mandatory to bemoan the fact that Christmas gets earlier every year.
While buying this year’s presents is still some way down my ‘to do’ list, the old fogey in me admits that having Christmas dinner in October is not quite right; so settling down to crackers and paper crowns on long tables in the Dakota Deluxe restaurant required some suspension of disbelief.
The Dakota is Leeds’ first and only five-star hotel. The walls of Quebec’s may have some great stories to tell; the Queens may be a fixture of civic and literary history; but this nouveau entrant onto the Leeds luxury skyline is the stand-alone gold standard.
It opened its doors eighteen months ago, the Scottish chain’s first establishment south of the border. If you hang out on Bond Court at the right time of the morning, you’ll occasionally see gigantic tour buses and limos driving rock bands and megastars away after their Arena or Academy tour stops.
Despite it being a little odd having crackers of an October evening, any of the Dakota’s VIP guests would be wise to opt for the Christmas dinner this festive season. Not that you need to have megastar cash to get in on the act. At £30 for three sumptuous courses, or £25 for two, it’s firmly within budget for us mere mortals, too.
My dining companion and I between us managed to sample six different dishes, all of which were a tour-de-force of flavour, artfully side-stepping the many clichés of the normal Christmas party meal. The chicken liver and truffle parfait starter was indulgent without being so rich it ruined the rest of the meal, lifted by a gorgeous spiced plum chutney that hinted at festive flavours without becoming overpowering.
As an act of rebellion, neither of us opted for the ballotine of Yorkshire turkey main, meaning when it was served to others on our table and looked particularly good I felt a pang of food envy. Thankfully, though, this passed when I had the first taste of my wonderful but admittedly less-traditional poached salmon fillet, topped with a chestnut crumb and accompanied by a champagne velouté that was so buttery that, in the words of one of my favourite foodie films, it almost stops your heart just to look at it. This is not to mention the seemingly bottomless goose fat roast potatoes that, let’s be honest, I had more than my fair share of.
Normally I don’t possess a particularly sweet tooth, and already being extremely full of roast potatoes I was not necessarily looking forward to pudding…..but the dark chocolate and orange delice wasted no time in proving me wrong. Unctuous layers of chocolate mousse with a chocolate glaze and a surprise chocolate orange crunch hiding in the centre, which all together worked to create the perfect taste of a Terry’s chocolate orange. Reader, I ate the entire thing, and I have precisely zero regrets. I would eat it right now, at 5:43am as I write this, if someone were to deliver it to me. Okay, Rosie……………so good we’ve used it twice!
Between the sultry surroundings downstairs at the Dakota and the quality of the food we tried, I’m tempted to organise a two person ‘work’ Christmas party just so we can go back and try the rest of the menu. Though as you might have guessed…..my pudding choice will absolutely stay the same.
The Dakota Festive Menu is available from Friday 23rd November to Monday 24th December.
There will also be a Christmas Day menu – £75pp for adults and £50pp for children; and a New Year’s Eve menu – £95pp, or £70pp early dinner pricing 5-6pm.
Rosie writes for Leeds Living on food and drink, health, beauty, culture and retail.