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'Cooking up a storm: From left, chef Ben Bayly, co-owner Sir Michael Hill and architect Anna-Marie Chin PICTURE: KATE ROBERGE

Take North Italian-style food, Central Otago and Southland ingredients and top New Zealand chef Ben Bayly.

They’re ingredients be-hind new Arrowtown restaurant, Aosta, opening next Saturday in premises formerly occupied by well-known Saffron restaurant and, latterly, Rosie B’s.

Then add the passion of the owners, including Arrowtown-based mega-jeweller Sir Michael Hill, a radical fit-out by award-winning local architect Anna-Marie Chin and the talents of Queenstown consultant Vicki Onions, who recruited Bayly.

Hill: “My vision and Ben’s and Vicki’s is we really want this to be recognised as the best restaurant in the South Island of New Zealand.

“Ben is extremely creative in his choice of food – this is going to be quite different.

“When you’ve got the very best, things are cooking straight off.”

Twice named NZ Chef of the Year while helming Auckland restaurant The Grove, Bayly’s love of Italian cooking was inspired by frequent trips to Aosta, in the Italian Alps, while working as a young chef in the French ski town of Chamonix.

“It has a similar climate and altitude to that of Central Otago – hot and dry in summer, cold and dry in winter.

“When we started to look into Northern Italian cooking, the ingredients you find there are very similar to here.

“I thought we had it good up north, but head south and all these incredible ingredients are right on your doorstep – high country lamb, wild shot red deer, Southland beef, Fiordland lobster and all that amazing Central Otago orchard fruit and berries.”

Bayly, who’ll be based in Arrowtown for the winter, says the wine list will be 99 per cent based on Central Otago’s five sub-regions, but with some Northern Italian pinot noir, too.

Onions says they are aiming for Aosta to be an affordable, hospitable restaurant “that will become an extension of your home”.

“We’re going to make it a totally exceptional experience that you rarely get anywhere,” Hill adds.

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