Acclaimed New York eatery The Lucky Bee has made its new hive at Hardys Bay, bringing some Big Apple buzz to the sunny Central Coast and spicing up the local food scene with its exciting take on modern Asian cuisine.
Run by restaurant couple Rupert Noffs and Matty Bennett, whose names you might recognise from Longrain in Sydney, The Lucky Bee has been serving colourful flavour-packed plates to the people of the Peninsula since opening at Frankie’s Rooftop Bar on top of The Bayview at Woy Woy in 2018.
Sadly, the Lucky Bee’s one-year contract in Frankie’s kitchen came to an end but, as luck would have it, the closure coincided with the opening of their very own venue at Hardys Bay.
As Rupert explains, operating out of the Bayview was a great way to ease Coasties into the Lucky Bee concept but they couldn’t say no to their own place on the water in magical Hardys Bay.
“We introduced our modern Asian share plates to a new clientele and were packed out every night. Even in winter. People were raving about our fresh, spicy dishes,” Rupert said.
“We would stay back and DJ most nights and talk with the guests. That was the Lucky Bee way and we wanted to bring a slice of NYC-style hospitality to Woy Woy.
“When we were approached to open our own venue at Hardys Bay we jumped at the opportunity. Hardys Bay feels like a world away – that’s the magic of the Central Coast. And, the sunsets are insane!”
When it launched on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 2016, The Lucky Bee was the talk of New York.
Matty’s house-made curry was named one of “The 21 Tastiest Dishes of 2016” by The New York Post and the restaurant was frequented by the likes of Sir Salman Rushdie, actress Diane Kruger, the one and only Barbra Streisand and Australia’s very own Curtis Stone.
While Barbra is yet to make a cameo at the Australian Lucky Bee, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright brought some Broadway buzz to the Coast when he popped in for dinner recently.
The Coast might seem like a far cry from the Big Apple but after two years of slogging it out in New York, battling crippling rents and the high cost of living, the couple wanted to be near family and away from the hustle and bustle.
The Lucky Bee is thriving in its new home, already expanding its Hardys Bay hive next door to create a buzzy new wing perfect for group bookings, banquets, special occasions and private parties.
The Bee’s winning formula lies in its spicy, bold and authentic flavours – straight from the streets of Thailand and Vietnam – a casual yet chic dining experience, and the star power of the restaurateur couple who have mastered the art of great hospitality after many years running restaurants in Sydney and New York.
The decor of the hive – baby pink meets rainforest green – combined with shiny disco balls, laser-lit bathrooms, and a funky old-school soundtrack, all set the scene for fun times, day or night.
Menu highlights include crunchy Szechuan salt and pepper chicken wings; a zesty papaya salad; steamed dumplings with black vinegar; heavenly soft shell crab; super spicy larb; poached prawns on betel leaf; and whether it’s miso and eggplant or peking duck inside the spring rolls, the flavour combinations are out of this world.
While Barbra was obsessed with the Bee’s traditional bao buns – twice-cooked pork hock with Hoisin, pickled cucumber and coriander in a soft bun – the chicken katsu version, with sriracha mayo, pickled carrot and lettuce, is just as addictive.
Keep an eye out for the Bee’s signature spicy lobster roll with Szechuan pepper and salt fries. It’s the perfect snack for the chic waterfront locale and is often the hottest ticket on the lunch menu.
For something a bit more substantial, there’s usually a traditional curry or whole fried fish on offer.
The seasonal Asian plates are designed to be shared family-style with fluffy Jasmine rice and where possible, produce has been sourced locally in the name of sustainability and supporting regional businesses.
“We’re not fine dining. We’re all about really good food in a relaxed, beautiful setting. Hardys Bay is a special spot and guests are travelling from all over just to visit – it’s very exciting,” Rupert said.
Just when you thought the trendy eatery couldn’t get any buzzier, they opened Plan Bee, a pandemic pivot that’s fast becoming a Hardys hot spot.
The new hole-in-the-wall Asian cafe has been built into the existing premises and offers takeaway for punters not keen on dining in.
The grab and go menu offers everything from canned cocktails to coffee, banh mi to grilled cheese, and yum cha including their world famous bao buns.
Originally published in Coastal Lifestyle – check out the full magazine here