Despite lockdown restrictions, celebrity chef Ben Bayly has still managed to open a new restaurant in Commercial Bay.

While plans for a launch party had to be postponed, Ahi – Maori for fire - opened quietly on the first day of level 2.5 - and has already cemented itself as Auckland's "must visit" new restaurant.

And Bayly says there's definitely a plus side to opening during lockdown – it means he's had time to get things perfect and bond with his new staff, before the rush of customers.


Ahi is just the latest addition to Bayly's fleet of eateries.

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The former My Kitchen Rules' judge and executive chef of Baduzzi opened Aosta in Arrowtown with Sir Michael Hill last year and The Grounds in West Auckland three years ago.

AHI Restaurant by Ben Bayly Supplied to Spy September 2020
AHI Restaurant by Ben Bayly Supplied to Spy September 2020

His TV series A New Zealand Food Story documented his search throughout Aotearoa for the best local ingredients, and the tribulations of building the perfect atmosphere to showcase them.

"All these different cultures have landed here in our country over the last 200 years, and everyone brings their own flavour " Bayly tells Spy.

AHI Restaurant by Ben Bayly Supplied to Spy September 2020
AHI Restaurant by Ben Bayly Supplied to Spy September 2020

"This season, we'll trace back the native fauna that has been around for thousands of years and the origins of our cuisine when Maori came to NZ," Bayly tells Spy.

Season two of the series picks up on opening night at Ahi, where Bayly is proudly showing off his new restaurant which pays homage to New Zealand history.

AHI menu with Ben Bayly Supplied to Spy September 2020
AHI menu with Ben Bayly Supplied to Spy September 2020

Ahi has been fitted out with beautiful native timber he found around his home, a woven wood ceiling inspired by a Māori flax kete, and a kitchen grill made out of a repurposed train carriage.

With Ahi located on Auckland's waterfront where international tourists are usually flocking in on cruise ships, Bayly is pleased that Kiwis will get to beat the crowds and find a sense of pride in their own cuisine.