Located on level two of the downtown Auckland Commercial Bay precinct, the Origine space is spectacular. Immense windows take in the Waitematā Harbour and a fit-out by Jack McKinney Architects makes the most of the 100-seater dining room and its 50-person mezzanine cocktail bar upstairs.
The space revolves around an abundance of glass. Maison de Verre-inspired glass bricks surround the bar and entranceway downstairs and enormous, transparent Flos pendant lights dangle over the main dining room. The opulent chandeliers are inherited from the venue’s predecessor Saxon & Parole, and the 10-metre-high slatted louvre windows take in the north-west aspect.
It's all grounded with deep, solid French oak flooring, dark Bordeaux red-coloured banquette seating, curved “old-school” wooden bistro chairs, and textural tables – some topped with marble, some with tiny tiles. (The tiles are something to inspect when you’re in – they’re made from recycled computer keyboards.)
Befitting the scale of the place, the seasonal, technique-driven menu is also broad. While the medium is Aotearoa’s best produce and ingredients, the message is French regional cuisine.
The food menu is divided into more than 10 sections, moving from snacks such as oeuf mimosa (devilled eggs), woodfire-baked oysters with French farmed caviar and charcuterie, to fromage from both France and New Zealand. The fruits de mer section includes a mix of cold and warm seafood dishes that can be served on their own or as an impressive “plateau” tower of plates – things like oysters, shellfish and poisson cru (a cured fish dish common in French Polynesia) make an appearance.
Starters include Origine’s play on classics such as the vol-au-vent, terrine and snails, and the grill section includes French steakhouse favourites entrecote, cote de porc (with a Harmony Farms pork chop) and steak hache.
At the helm is restaurateur Ben Bayly and his wife Cara Bayly, who are joined by their Ahi business partners Chris Martin and Lucile Fortuna. French-born Fortuna (who’s married to Martin) is the restaurant’s general manager. Executive chef Thibault Peniarbelle (Tibo) is originally from Toulouse, while Peniarbelle's partner Judika Ramcharand is also on board as Origine’s restaurant manager.
Fortuna has written the wine list to be per region rather than by grape variety. Upstairs in the mezzanine cocktail bar, you can enjoy a drinks list built around classics as you take in the view.