Auckland will be saying ‘salut’ to a new French bistro in early August as two of the city’s prominent hospitality couples combine their talents for a new labour of love.

Origine (pronounced Ori-gene) is the brainchild of acclaimed chef and restaurateur Ben Bayly and wife Cara, and Ahi’s Chris Martin and French-born wife, Lucile Fortuna.

Opening in the former Saxon + Parole site in Auckland’s Commercial Bay, the ambience of the space and location lends itself perfectly to the large French bistro the couples envisioned.

Origine will be a modern French restaurant with a relaxed New Zealand atmosphere, an intersection of classical French cuisine and a modern local approach to cooking, promising a delicious experience.

Ben, Chris, and Lucile all have strong links to French cuisine. Lucile was born and bred in Lyon, France, the home of famous Bouchons Lyonnais (brasseries), where she completed her wine and hospitality studies. Ben lived in France for several years, while Chris has six years’ experience at the esteemed Vue de Monde in Melbourne under his belt.

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

Origine’s menu is designed to represent the best of French regional cuisine, inspired by the great dishes of France, with these dishes curated with the freshest and best ingredients from New Zealand. Origine‘s drinks list will be a tribute to classic French styles, whilst showcasing a well-considered local selection.

Bayly is delighted to add Origine to his growing list of ventures, 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 be opening a French restaurant after learning all about the cuisine at the beginning of his career.

“When I was first starting out in hospitality, I thought French food was the pinnacle or the origin of all cuisines, so heading to France for nearly four years as a young chef was the making of me,” he says. “The French classics are in my bones and I’m so glad to finally have a home for them with Origine.”

Martin and Fortuna, who co-own Ahi with Bayly, share their enthusiasm for French cuisine, following their time living and working 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 be doing this with Ben at Commercial Bay. We’re honoured to bring our passion and experience of French food and wine to Auckland and Aotearoa.”

CEO of Precinct Properties, Scott Pritchard, says he’s excited to see Origine taking shape as the city centre springs back to life and tourists start to return.

“We’re delighted to be working with Ben, Cara, Chris, Lucile and their team towards the opening of Origine in early August. They are proven performers, and we know they will deliver an outstanding new restaurant.

“Origine promises to be a must-visit drawcard 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 restaurant’s refit is being undertaken by the award-winning team at Jack McKinney Architects. The chic 150-seat space will boast a spacious, light, and airy open plan atrium dining room overlooking the glistening vista of the Waitematā Harbour.

The main dining area will seat 100 guests in a mixture of banquette and table and chair seating downstairs, with another 50 upstairs in an open plan mezzanine cocktail bar, available for diners and private bookings.

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

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

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