Dakota, the stylish city centre hotel, is drawing attention to its Grill restaurant during September with a special tasting menu. The bar and dining room are low-key fixtures on the local dining scene. Attracting a regular crowd but content to be hidden away in plain sight close to Blythswood Square.

We start the evening in Jacks Bar, a classic urban lounge with low-lighting at the back of the hotel. Comfy corners for gossipy meetings and a tightly constructed cocktail menu. Order a Negroni.

Downstairs, our meal starts with a cube of crispy smoked ham, caviar and crème fraiche to get things off to a punchy start. Alongside sits a freshly shucked oyster from Cumbrae, sprinkled with blue cheese and a touch of dill. Tasting menus are all about trust and despite initial reservations it turns out there was balance to be had as the impact of the cheese was washed away by complimentary flavours of the sea.

Glasgow Times: DakotaDakota

We pause for an in-housed baked sourdough loaf that had a hint of sweetness to it and was swiftly lathered in smoked butter and divided.

A scallop from Loch Fyne arrives, bathed in xo butter, sitting on beer pickled shallots. It turns out the beer is pale ale from West Brewery at Glasgow Green so we ask for a glass of that to continue the local tasting.

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Isle of Gigha halibut is as good a fish dish as you can find - here the prized slice is presented with hints of vanilla, mushroom and hazelnuts. Venison up next – we were assured the deer had lived a full and active life on a Scottish estate before the haunch ended up glistening on our plate. It’s partnered with a sherry jus, a sharp raspberry sauce, haggis and crispy potato. The definition of outstanding produce, prepared well.

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There’s a passion fruit and mango sorbet to bring hints of the summer before we are presented with an indulgent chocolate fondant and honeycomb to complete the showcase.

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General Manager Andrew Doherty is a former head chef here and he says the introduction of a tasting menu was as much for the kitchen as it was for the customer. “It’s a morale boost. We have a small, tightknit team who are passionate about our regular menu and the sourcing and preparation of our signature dishes like Scotch beef steaks.

“At the same time, we wanted to motivate and challenge the team to elevate what we are doing. We look around at other top restaurants in the city offering a tasting menu and we want to push the boundaries a little.

“This also offers something that will hopefully intrigue customers who may have a set idea of what we do here.”

Andrew has been with the hotel for five and a half years. He says the sense of camaraderie and seeing the bar and restaurant busy again are what he is enjoying about the return of hospitality. He’s also noticing that folk are ready to enjoy themselves again and are dressed to impress.

He says “Champagne sales are up, we see families celebrating or couples out mid-week and ready to find a reason to have a good night. When they are out of the house, they’ll throw everything at it. Lots of younger people out for our Saturday nights. We are also seeing the return of bookings from America which is earlier than I expected.

“Seeing the buzz back in the kitchen, the music on in the dining room, the clinking of glasses in the bar, it’s fantastic for me and the whole team.”


Hooligan Wine Shop

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Small neighbourhood bars and restaurants have led the revival of Glasgow’s food and drink scene. Bold chefs, interesting wine lists and everchanging menus led by seasonal produce are in fashion. Yet the more compact dining rooms have been the hardest hit by Covid restrictions. Only now are we seeing their full return.

Eighty Eight on Dumbarton Road, emboldened by the response to their fresh, healthy small plates menu, open their new sister venue Hooligan this week. You will find them in a room above The Drake.

Head Chef Craig MacLennan says diners can expect a wide range of natural wines. The first food menu features eye-catching dishes like aubergine, fermented tomato, sumac yoghurt, feta and crispy flatbread. There’s charcuterie to share and also a selection of cheese from IJ Mellis, presented with burnt onion chutney and crackers.

Rhona Burton, who leads the front of house team at both Eighty Eight and Hooligan as General Manager says “The menu is more wine orientated, people are can come in and have their glass of Chablis in the evening but there is a menu there with lots of rich flavours that will compliment your choice of drink.

What about that name though – you won’t find many hooligans around Park Circus, what are they trying to imply? “Well, we are trying to do things a bit differently, we are not going to adhere to what you expect from a wine bar, we cover so many variations of taste. We will have wine that a lot of people won’t like, we will hopefully have wine that people will be impressed by” Rhona says.

This will be a place to start conversations about types of grapes. Staff will be encouraged to open bottles and expand horizons. Some people don’t like Chardonnay, I acknowledge. “Maybe they don’t like oaked wine in general. I defy anyone to visit us, try our hake with chicken butter and tempura samphire dish with a glass of our Chardonnay and say they don’t fit together” says Rhonda.

Your next wine flight for the unconventional awaits at Hooligan.