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Ben Bayly's Contemporary New Zealand Restaurant Has Opened in Commercial Bay

Take a nationwide food tour at this inventive new restaurant in downtown Auckland.
By Stephen Heard
September 09, 2020
By Stephen Heard
September 09, 2020

If you've seen A New Zealand Food Story then you'll already know the backstory behind new downtown restaurant Ahi. The eight-part online series follows acclaimed chef Ben Bayly and his team as they set out to discover what local cuisine is all about and where our produce comes from.

It sees him enter rough Fiordland waters to harvest paua and crayfish, stalk deer through the Avon Valley, join a hook-to-plate fishing expedition in Foveaux Straight, and munch an absolutely enormous fig in Marlborough. The end goal is to create a truly unique New Zealand restaurant for the 28 March deadline. Five months later, in this year from hell, it's finally here.

Ahi, translating from te reo Māori to 'fire', opened its doors for the first time on 31 August inside the new Commercial Bay precinct. Inside, Bayly and co-founder Chris Martin expand on the concept of fire with an open hearth in the kitchen. The 120-seat, hyperlocal space also features a woven oak ceiling to represent traditional Māori kete baskets, handmade plates from a West Auckland potter and an abundance of native timber which was salvaged by Bayly during the course of construction.

Bayly says that Ahi's menu has been devised as a "culinary representation of what it means to be home, celebrating the diversity of the New Zealanders who bring produce to our tables."

From whenua and moana, the land and the sea, diners can enjoy oysters by way of Waiheke Island, buffalo cheese from Whangaripo, speared butterfish from Cook Straight and cauliflower from Pukekohe.

Snack items include tahr tartare with wild garlic and fermented hot sauce, hāngī pāua with kahawai, sour cream and kawakawa, and an interpretation of the 'Trumpet' made with buffalo ice cream and chocolate from Auckland's Miann.

The larger courses complete the nationwide food tour. There's Fiordland crayfish soup with kūmara and saffron ravioli, Gisborne butternut with toasted harakeke flax and māhoe shoots, and 'Boil-up Toast' made with Berkshire pork, watercress and egg. From A New Zealand Food Story comes Bayly's wild-shot fallow deer in loin and cheek form, while the half crayfish you may have seen being charcoaled on the rugged Fiordland coast now comes with green onion and ginger sauce and lemon-sorrel salad.

The restaurant comes complete with picturesque views out over the Waitematā Harbour — something which Bayly says is essential so diners know that they are in Aotearoa.

Find Ahi on the second floor of the Commercial Bay precinct at 7 Queen Street. It's open 11.30am til late, seven days a week.

Images: Manja Wachsmuth.

Published on September 09, 2020 by Stephen Heard
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