Restaurant Review: Origine Is The Kind Of Fine French Restaurant We Haven’t Had Before

By Jesse Mulligan
The ravioli from the menu at new French restaurant Origine. Photo / Babiche Martens


Cuisine: French

Address: Commercial Bay, 2/172 Quay St, city

Phone: 027 674 4463

Reservations: Accepted

Drinks: Fully licensed

From the menu: Terrine $21; seafood platter (price varies); pāua ravioli $33; French onion soup $28; steak hache $38; confit duck $45

Origine is the sort of grand opening you really

"We spent more on this than we did when we built Ahi from scratch," said co-owner Chris Martin (not that one), who's also spent more of his time here than he expected to.

“The idea was that my wife would work and I would look after the kids but … we’ve both been here full time since we opened.”

The view is different than it was at Saxon too, those Quay St roadworks we all cursed for so long now having largely disappeared, revealing a very stroll-able tree-lined boulevard.

The ultimate New Zealand compliment “it feels like you’re not in Auckland” really applies when you first walk in, though if you get a seat by the front window and start to notice the rhythm of the ferries coming and going across our beautiful oceanic front yard, you realise you actually couldn’t be anywhere else.

In many ways it's a fine French restaurant, of the sort we haven't really had before now. Even Sid at The French Cafe is more of a modern, fused proposition particularly under the influence of Sid Sahrawat and his South American/Japanese head chef.

"Though you may have visited when this space was Saxon + Parole, the new owners have done such a big renovation that it feels like a brand-new restaurant." Photo / Babiche Martens
"Though you may have visited when this space was Saxon + Parole, the new owners have done such a big renovation that it feels like a brand-new restaurant." Photo / Babiche Martens

But Origine is an unashamed tribute to the more traditional places Ben Bayly loved and worked at in France.

The wine is all French a brave and I think excellent call given how easy it would have been to give people a list of the Central Otago pinots they’ve become used to ordering and the dishes are all stone-cold classics, including some even Ben was unfamiliar with as a young chef in Paris.

“When I saw them come out of the freezer I thought they were burger patties, so I cooked them well done,” he told me, of the steak hache, a minced eye fillet. He only did that once.

They are a conceptual challenge for the eater too delicious though they are, served with just a quenelle of mustard and fries on the side.

The Origine chefs don’t serve them rare like back home, but give them a good crust in a hot pan and turn them on to the plate just as the interior hits medium. The meat is tender and beautiful and, of course, simple just a little onion, I think, and plenty of seasoning added to the chopped beef.

There are more elaborate options, including the seafood platter which will define this restaurant. Take a moment now and look at the photo of it below.

The mixed seafood platter. Photo / Babiche Martens
The mixed seafood platter. Photo / Babiche Martens

Thanks. I saw our photographer Babiche the day after she took this pic and she was still bearing the emotional weight of asking them to assemble such an expensive dish, so I promised I’d make sure as many of you as possible enjoyed it.

You don’t have to order the whole thing, in fact Origine’s concept is that you build your own. Technically you could just get an oyster each and it would still arrive in this fancy architecture, but the idea that you’re building a platter does mean you end up throwing in extra things so it doesn’t look too mean when it arrives.

I was surprised at how filling this part of the meal was it’s not slivers of fish that melt on your tongue but big, often chunky mouthfuls that would easily count as an entree and might even do as a main.

It was all beautifully done but I particularly recommend the bright salmon gravlax, a delicate raw snapper in a light coconut ceviche, and tender, meaty sections of octopus tentacle braised in what looked like a classic mirepoix.

We ate here on the day the first asparagus arrived at the Auckland markets so my pāua ravioli had a real sense of spring: young sliced spears and tiny, verdant broad beans scattered over the rich pasta parcel along with fragments of escargot cooked al dente like good shiitake mushrooms.

I also loved the confit duck, rich but delicate, served with seasonal textures a darkly roasted carrot next to the same vegetable blended with butter into a rich, sweet puree; a perfect sphere made of tiny savoy leaves, with delicious insides of chopped cabbage mixed with what seemed like more of that incredible duck flavour.

It was a busy restaurant, and the crowds around me were very happy. I’d wondered if Kiwis had much appetite for this very French food, but I suppose deliciousness has no borders.

The desserts look like they deserve their own dedicated visit but after I made a grave administrative error and ordered too much savoury food, we simply couldn’t fit it in.

My wife was particularly cross about this, and on the drive home gave me a treatment so frosty I had to huddle under our emergency car blanket.

Hopefully this information will allow you to plan your own eating more effectively if I can save just one husband, that expensive seafood photo will have been worth it.

More Commercial Bay Dining

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Big Flavours At Korean Destination Gochu. Jesse Mulligan dines at Commercial Bay’s Korean eatery.

At The Revamped Poni, The Pink Is Gone But The Flavours Are IntactThe restaurant has less of its predecessor’s singular focus on the wine.

Ahi Offers Unsurpassable Artistry On A Plate. With its many finely spun parts, Ahi is simply faultless.

The Lodge Bar & Dining Is An Experience To Savour. Jesse Mulligan stumbles across a culinary hero.

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