For over a decade West Auckland-born Matt Lambert has been presenting top-class Kiwi-influenced food in New York City. At The Musket Room, his pitch-perfect interpretation of the New Zealand food story garnered a Michelin star in record time. “I’m proud of being a New Zealander,” says Matt. “I was promoting New Zealand, showing people what New Zealand is and can be.”

Retailer Rodd & Gunn tells a version of the same tale, with a brand vision built on luxury, comfort and confidence, selling not just high-quality clothing and accessories, but a glimpse into an idyllic New Zealand lifestyle.

So in 2016 when Rodd & Gunn CEO Mike Beagley wanted to flirt with an ‘experiential retail’ concept melding fashion and food in Queenstown, Matt was a natural fit to develop the menu. “I’d been in New York for a long time,” says Matt. “It weighs on you, that city. Queenstown sounded pretty cool to me.”

Now with Rodd & Gunn’s newest venture in Auckland’s Commercial Bay precinct, Matt brings the concept north, this time as menu curator at The Lodge Bar & Dining – a lighter, brighter iteration bringing together all-day dining within a flagship retail space. In Auckland earlier this year Matt told us, “I’m stoked to be back home, and this location overlooking the Ferry Building is very time-machine romantic for me as I grew up catching the ferry here to go to a friend’s bach on Waiheke.”

Matt spent weeks catching up with Kiwi purveyors, meeting the growers and makers at Clevedon Buffalo, Curious Croppers, Lot Eight, Forage & Ferment, Juponica Gardens and Neat Meat. And he was blown away by what he found. “Everything is better here [than in New York]. I love Cloudy Bay clams, the Te Matuku oysters from Waiheke. The seafood is crazy awesome.” And while those Te Matuku oysters can be served classic mignonette-style, or alongside a punchy horseradish granita, just wait to see what Matt does to them with the Josper charcoal grill and an accompaniment of smoked bone marrow.

Matt modestly describes his cooking style as simple and honest food that tastes really good and champions how good the produce is. But don’t be fooled by this ‘simple and honest’ mantra into thinking that this is anything but very fine food treated with a deft hand and a mastery of fine technique. It’s up to Logan Clark, formerly of Bracu, to execute Matt’s menu as head chef, while Cameron Douglas – the country’s only Master Sommelier – has curated a wine list of New Zealand and international drops to go alongside. So, now you can capture a slice of pure Kiwi confidence right on central Auckland’s waterfront. roddandgunn.com/nz/the-lodge-bar

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