BEN BAYLY IS NAILING WHAT NEW ZEALAND DOES BEST.
2020 is going to be huge for Ben Bayly. He’s been playing in the big-league-chefs’ space in New Zealand for years having been executive chef across award-winning Auckland restaurants Baduzzi and The Grove, as well as part-owner at The Grounds at Whoa! Studios. Leading into those roles his pedigree was well-established having landed senior roles at Michelin-starred restaurants The Ledbury and The Square in London and Restaurant Jean-Paul Jennet in France. He became the darling of our fine-dining set while leading the kitchen at then 3-hatted restaurant The Grove, taking home the coveted title of Cuisine Good Food Awards Chef of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and the middle of this year will see him opening a new Ben Bayly concept at Auckland’s new Commercial Bay. Details were still on the hush as we went to print, but the opening is set for 28 May. Ben says it’s going to be New Zealand food, smart casual and the views of the Hauraki Gulf from the northeast terrace are stunning.
Now there is absolutely no denying that this man can cook. I recently found myself the subject of much amusement as I tucked into a plate of Ben’s luxurious cappelletti with seafood ricotta. One of those moments where I was sure I was groaning with pleasure inwardly, while outwardly exhibiting acceptable levels of modern dining decorum. Sadly, not. I was aiming for mindful eating but ended up at mindlessly delirious. That glorious dish was on the menu at his latest restaurant Aosta, just 25 minutes from Queenstown, snuggled within the quaint heritage buildings of Arrowtown. This is where Ben seems to have hit his stride, combining his outstanding skills as a chef with an adept grasp of the power of Kiwi casual. At Aosta, Ben pairs cooking techniques inspired by the Aosta valley in Northern Italy with ingredients carefully selected from growers, breeders and suppliers throughout Central Otago. The restaurant sets the perfect backdrop for these recipes, created by Ben to entice you to venture out and soak up the last of the fresh and flavour-packed end-of-summer ingredients that abound, before we give in to the earthy tones of autumn. KELLI BRETT