How does The Lodge Bar Auckland stack up against the inner-city dining competition?
As the dining offshoot of kiwi clothing brand Rodd & Gunn, The Lodge Bar may truly be the perfect fit for Auckland’s latest upscale shopping and dining precinct, Commercial Bay. The first Rodd & Gunn store opened on Queen in 1986, so it’s appropriate to see the brand now re-invented at the bottom of the very same street, bringing both of the luxury complex’s key selling points together in one venue.
Having already sampled the superb cuisine at the Queenstown outpost of The Lodge Bar, we’re very keen to see how the The Lodge Bar Auckland compares. Bringing the lifestyle aspect of a clothing brand to life isn’t the easiest task, but The Lodge Bar have done a great job of melding Rodd & Gunn’s hunting heritage with Auckland CBD’s corporate chic vibe. The result is Scandi-chic with a touch of garden shed, and we’re living for it.
The menu is designed by kiwi Chef Matt Lambert, known most recently for heading up the Michelin-starred Musket Room in NYC (and his enthusiasm for drumming and sneaker collecting on Instagram). Executed by Head Chef Logan Clarke, the menu ranges from seafood to pasta, josper-cooked meats to vegetarian options, and despite not being huge in size, should please all at the table with options on offer. We were surprised that the menu wasn’t as game-heavy as we would have expected given Rodd & Gunn’s hunting vibe (venison tartare please, Matt?).
The tables are simply and elegantly set with plates that we have on good authority may be available to take home soon as part of Rodd & Gunn’s expansion into lifestyle retail. There’s even a suggestive, tiny oyster fork already laid out, cleverly planting a seed most oyster lovers surely can’t resist (and if you are an oyster lover, you’re in luck as there are four preparations of the popular mollusc on the menu). For non-seafood eaters, there is just one option on the bites menu, the tasty and crispy Meat pie croquette, smoked cheddar ($4ea). We were told it’s the same filling as the Gunners game pie, so if you’re ordering that dish, you probably don’t need to order this bite also.
Complimentary sourdough is provided, and while it’s not bad, it lacks the crunchy crust that making it in-house might solve. We’d love to see it improve in the future.
The service at The Lodge Bar is top-notch – they’ve gathered up a fair whack of top talent from Auckland, NZ and abroad, so don’t be surprised if you recognise a friendly face from previous dining exploits. Our sommelier Adrian is fresh from a stint at London private members wine club 67 Pall Mall (home to one of our favourite sommeliers, Terry Kandylis, with whom we had the pleasure of dining with in Santorini last year), and definitely knows how to pull out just the right drop for the dish.
Wines are served in Jancis Robinson x Richard Brendon universal glasses, which is something we’ve not seen before and is impressive without being too complicated.
If you’re looking for hearty, warming meals on a cold and blustery Auckland winter evening, then these two dishes will fill your stomach and warm your soul. The Rigatoni, lamb shoulder ragu, oregano ($26) had our dining companion, who let’s just say is very experienced with Italian cuisine, singing its praises. Serious depth of flavour going on here.
The Gunners game pie, side salad ($20) is for us, the signature dish at The Lodge Bar, a medley of venison, hare and rabbit encased in perfectly fluffy, flaky pastry. Even the simple-looking side salad is brilliantly dressed and really does add something to the plate. This is the must order dish of the menu in our opinion.
The Wood roasted beetroot, citrus, yoghurt, citrus buffalo curd ($18) is a refreshing foil to the heavier, saucier dishes, and very well executed. Definitely one of our favourites on the menu.
We sampled one of the four Josper grill options, the 700gr Dry aged rib eye on the bone, steak jus, confit garlic ($85). It’s probably the only dish we were disappointed in overall, with not nearly enough marbling and fat content for our personal preference – not so much a cooking issue (though we would have liked it a little more rare) as a factor that comes down to the choice of meat supplier. We have to add the disclaimer though, we are used to beef with rather a lot of marbling internationally, so our standards are pretty high when it comes to dishes like this. As far as sides go, we can definitely recommend the truffle mash.
Look, we’ll be straight up – we usually wouldn’t order chicken when dining out unless it’s fried (best kind of chicken in our books) but the Organic deboned half chicken, chicken jus, salsa verde ($34), alongside neighbouring Gochu’s comté chicken, has proven our mindset may be somewhat misguided. It’s Bostock’s, of course, which is fast gaining a reputation for the best damn chicken out there – check out Ben Bayly‘s A New Zealand Food Story to find out why these chickens are truly free-range unlike any other. Served with lemon and capers, it’s rich and savoury yet bright and bursting with flavour.
The Confit pork belly, radish, pear & ginger puree, pork jus ($30) is deliciously rich, the pear puree and radish working well to counter the fattiness of the meat. It should definitely please pork belly devotees.
Cocktails are also very well executed at The Lodge Bar, we particularly enjoyed our Mayor for a Month (Buffalo Trace bourbon, Smoke & Oakum’s Gunpowder rum, cacao, bitters, $21) and their Espresso Martini (Broken Shed vodka, Quick Brown Fox, Mojo Coffee, $20) also passes muster.
The Lodge Bar is a sophisticated addition to Auckland’s downtown dining options, impressing across the board. We anticipate this one will be here for the long haul – it’s got repeat-visit value in spades. Perfect for a cheeky cocktail, a lazy lunch or a hearty dinner, this is a venue soon to be an Auckland favourite.