Why Auckland chef Ben Bayly loves Gemmayze St

Auckland chefs tell us their favourite spots to eat. This week, Ben Bayly of Auckland restaurants The Grounds, The Grove and Baduzzi, tell us why he loves Gemmayze St.

“My favourite restaurant is Gemmayze St in St Kevin’s Arcade. Co-owned by chef Samir Allen (who’s in his early twenties and is, in my opinion, the future of New Zealand hospo), and his mum Liane, the menu reflects their Lebanese heritage.

The depth of flavour in Samir’s cooking is what impresses me; we love it so much we’ve nicknamed the restaurant Gemmayzing St! I recently tried a new dish called malfouf, which means cabbage in Arabic. A simple, roasted wedge of red cabbage served with a red pepper puree, it’s a new favourite. You know a chef is good when he can make a pedestrian ingredient like cabbage taste so delicious.”

Gemmayze St’s one perfect dish 

Grilled octopus with thyme, taramasalata and pomegranate molasses

“You know when you’re by the ocean in Lebanon and they’re all grilling octopus?” Chef Samir Allen’s points of reference usually revolve around first-hand experiences of Lebanese cuisine. At Gemmayze St, the restaurant in St Kevin’s Arcade that he owns with his mother, Liane Farry, each plate represents a fond food memory. His interpretation of Lebanese grilled octopus – a signature dish since the restaurant opened in July this year – is roughly composed of three elements: octopus tentacles (which are poached and then grilled with pomegranate molasses), creamy taramasalata and crispy deep-fried quinoa. A generous handful of chives and thyme subtly balances the meat’s richness, while quinoa gives each bite welcome crunch, complementing the inherent chewiness of the flesh. Allen pohutukawa-smokes (with a light hand) snapper roe for the bread-based taramasalata. Flavours and textures are perfectly balanced, and diners agree; the restaurant gets through around 80-100 kilos of octopus a week, supplied by local sustainability champions Leigh Fisheries.


Gemmayze St
St Kevin’s Arcade,
Karangahape Rd


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