Lane Cove isn't brimming with foodie gems but, of the ones that do call the lower north shore suburb home, Lodge Tapas is certainly one of them. The newly revamped space boasts ace hospitality, on-point owners and a head chef that hails from Matt Moran's Aria.
Set in the heart of Lane Cove Plaza, the restaurant manages to straddle the perfect balance of family friendly and bustling and busy, so if you won't be bothered either way — kids or no kids. The restaurant itself has a somewhat rustic feel with porch seating, hanging plants and big lamps giving off ample mood lighting. It's easy to forget you're in the middle of an open, bustling shopping pavilion.
New owner Matt Lines jovially greets guests as front of house. Together with wife Marketa, the two have nearly 50 years of experience in hospitality — and their tenure shows. They've accrued a team of staff that is impeccably trained, knowledgeable and welcoming.
If that wasn't enough, they've signed on Kyoung Sub Cha (ex-Aria) as head chef, who is absolutely killing it in the kitchen. And the food — which is a sort of modern Australian fusion — isn't only tapas as the name would suggest. While many of their dishes like the wild mushroom arancini ($13) and their zucchini fries ($12) are made to share, the offering isn't limited to this kind of dining.
The seasonal menu is currently focused on winter favourites, and the wild mushroom gnocchi is the best among them ($25). The house-made pillows are lovingly dosed in truffle oil while the wild mushroom adds earthiness. It's all topped with micro greens, goats' cheese and shaved parmesan — and it's rich in the best possible way.
If you're going on the lighter side, the beetroot-cured salmon ($17) is homage to the days of warmer weather. Lightly cured with beetroot and vodka, it's sliced super thin and served with lightly pickled veg. Meat lovers shouldn't miss the twice-cooked pork belly ($19), which is some of the best we've had in Sydney. Served with a grilled Canadian scallop and a medley of apples done several ways, the dish is well conceived and executed.
On the drinks side, the nicely curated wine list suggests a pairing with each main. The cocktails should be your first stop though, especially the passionfruit caipiroska ($16).
Serving breakfast through to dinner and a special Mexican menu Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Lodge is already a go-to amongst Lane Cove locals — and for good reason. It's like being at your family's house, except the service is way better and you don't have to deal with your actual family.