In an exciting development for Auckland’s downtown dining scene, a new hospitality destination has taken up residence in the space that used to be Saxon + Parole (in the heart of Commercial Bay), and it is officially opening its doors next Monday.
The brainchild of renowned chef, Ben Bayly and his wife Cara Bayly, alongside their Ahi co-owners, Chris Martin and his wife, Lucile Fortuna (a group who, combined, have five decades of experience in French-inspired cuisine), Origine bistro is the impressive culmination of their longstanding dream to open a French restaurant together — a place at which they hope to share their love for French food and culture with Auckland’s discerning diners.
“I adore the way the French love to eat,” Ben Bayly says, “they know how to enjoy a meal. We want to convey a sense of this with Origine — presenting the classics but in our own way”. This means getting rid of the white-table-cloth connotations that French cuisine might conjure for local diners by creating a more relaxed, traditional brasserie, where people can pop in for a quick drink and an aperitif, or indulge in a more drawn-out lunch or dinner.
Nowhere is this idea more clear than in Origine’s extensive menu, designed to showcase the best of regional French food, grounded in fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Here, the trifecta of French cooking comes alive — seasonality, terroir and technique — with dishes that are flavourful and unique without losing any of the richness or depth one might expect from a French dining experience. The menu is divided into hors d’oeuvres (snacks), à partager (to share), pour commencer (starters), plats principaux (mains), accompagnements (sides), les desserts, and fromages (cheese), and boasts a comprehensive ‘steak frites’ offering, an enticing line-up of ‘fruits de mer’ (seafood) and basically all of the classic dishes (although with a distinctly New Zealand twist). From soupe à l’oignon, enriched with oxtail and topped off with baguette grilled with comté to Les escargots in ravioli, with parsley butter and garlic velouté, the food at Origine is vast and varied and undeniably delicious. Here, there is something for everyone to enjoy, including the little ones, thanks to its ‘P’tit’ options, perfect for kids.
It’s a similar story with Origine’s drink offering. In the main restaurant downstairs, diners can choose from an array of French wines, spirits and cocktails, sourced from the finest vineyards and made at the hands of Origine’s expert bar staff. While those seeking a more convivial night out will find good times and excellent cocktails upstairs, at ‘Le Bar.’ Set on the mezzanine floor, this sleek space serves a raft of cocktails curated by Ahi’s Anton Baylon and Egor Petrov (ex QT-bar), centred around the classics, as well as a series of bar snacks, charcuterie and cheeses.
All of this is to be enjoyed in Origine’s exquisite surrounds. Having been treated to a refit by the award-winning Jack McKinney Architects, the bistro feels warm and inviting, despite its 10-metre-high stud, floor-to-ceiling windows and elevated views. Distinctly French touches are seen in the wall of Austral Venetian glass bricks flanking the entrance (inspired by McKinney’s visit to Maison de Verre in Paris), the red leather banquette seating and the solid French oak floors. Just picture parking up here on a beautiful evening to watch the sunset over the water with a delicious drink in hand. Heaven.
And considering the experience of those involved in bringing Origine to life, including Executive Chef Thibault Peniarbelle, who was born in Noumea and grew up in Toulouse, and whose partner, Judika Ramcharand (born and raised in Montréal) has taken up the mantle of restaurant manager, its hardly surprising that we’re expecting great things from this bold new opening. Come next week, this is where you’ll find us.
The Restaurant will be open seven days for lunch from 12pm and dinner from 5:45pm until late.
Le Bar (upstairs bar) will be open Wednesday through to Sunday from 5pm until late.
Level 2, Commercial Bay
172 Quay Street,