The new Origine restaurant combines classic French cuisine with a modern Kiwi approach

Auckland will hail a new French bistro in early August as two of the city’s leading hotel couples join forces for a new labor of love.

Origin (pronounced Ori-gene) is the brainchild of celebrity chef and restaurateur Ben Bayly and his wife Cara, and Chris Martin d’Ahi and his French-born wife, Lucile Fortuna.

Opened in the former Saxon + Word site in Auckland’s Commercial Bay, the ambiance of the space and location lends itself perfectly to the great French bistro imagined by the couples. Origine will be a modern French restaurant with a relaxed New Zealand atmosphere, an intersection of classic French cuisine and a modern local approach to cooking, promising a delicious experience.

Ben, Chris and Lucile all have strong ties to French cuisine. Lucile was born and raised in Lyon, France, home of the famous Bouchons Lyonnais (breweries), where she completed her studies in wine and hospitality. Ben lived in France for several years, while Chris has six years of experience at the prestigious Vue de Monde in Melbourne.

The group is now setting up its dream team Origine, which includes Thibault Peniarbelle (Tibo) as executive chef (ex-Cassia / The Grove / Apero), originally from Toulouse and Vicky Shah (ex-Cassia) who already works closely with Ben and the team.

Origin’s menu is designed to represent the best of regional French cuisine, inspired by the great dishes of France, with these dishes prepared with the freshest and best ingredients from New Zealand. Origine’s drink menu will pay homage to classic French styles, while showcasing a thoughtful local selection.

Bayly is delighted to add Origine to its growing list of businesses, which includes Ahi, Ahi Organic Gardens and The Grounds in Auckland, as well as Aosta, Little Aosta and Blue Door Bar in Arrowtown. He says he’s excited to open a French restaurant after learning all about cooking early in his career.

“When I started in the hospitality industry, I thought French cuisine was the pinnacle or origin of all cuisines, so moving to France for almost four years as a young chef was my decision,” says -he. “French classics are in my bones and I’m so happy to finally have a home for them with Origine.”

Martin and Fortuna, co-owners of Ahi with Bayly, share their enthusiasm for French cuisine, having lived and worked in Europe and Martin’s tenure at Vue de Monde.

“Lucile and I have always wanted to open a French bistro and we are beyond excited to do so with Ben in Commercial Bay. We are honored to bring our passion and experience of French food and wine to Auckland and Aotearoa.

Precinct Properties CEO Scott Pritchard says he’s excited to see Origin taking shape as the downtown area comes alive and tourists start to return.

“We are delighted to be working with Ben, Cara, Chris, Lucile and their team for the opening of Origin in early August. They have a proven track record and we know they will deliver an outstanding new restaurant.

“Origin promises to be a must-visit map for Aucklanders and visitors alike, adding to the vibrancy of Commercial Bay as people once again enjoy our world-class hospitality and retail offering.”

The redevelopment of the restaurant is being undertaken by the award winning team of Jack McKinney Architects. The chic 150-seat space will feature a spacious, light and airy open atrium dining room overlooking the glittering view of Waitematā Harbour.

The main dining room will seat 100 people in a mix of banquettes and tables and chairs downstairs, with another 50 people upstairs in an open-plan mezzanine cocktail bar, available for dinners and private bookings.

Key design features include a floor-to-ceiling wall of Austral Venetian glass bricks flanking the upper mezzanine entrance, paying homage to Paris’ famous Maison de Verre glass house. Other features highlight Flos pendant and floor lighting, splashes of red with red leather banquette seats and tiled table tops.

Origin is set to launch in early August and will be open seven days for lunch and dinner. For regular updates, follow on Instagram or visit

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