When I did my #SpooningDoesCentralCoast tour a couple of months back I never assumed I would find some of the best food I would eat this year. And never in my lifetime would I imagine two of the best restaurants of 2018 would both be in Woy Woy!
THE LUCKY BEE JOURNEY:
Rupert Noffs and Matty Bennett were Aussie restaurateurs owning the New York food scene. The Lucky Bee originally opened in Manhattan and fast became the must go Asian fusion tapas bar to be seen at. It’s quite an honour when your baos are an eating favourite of Barbra Streisand and your diners include everyone from Chris Rock to Salman Rushdie.
But years in the fastest lane, and rent that makes Sydney prices look like petty cash, gave the boys a yearning for something a little slower and closer to their families and so, for some crazy reason, they decided to settle on moving The Lucky Bee from Manhattan to Woy Woy on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia.
They popped in to The Bayview Hotel in Woy Woy on a family visit, saw that it just had a $7MIL overhaul and struck a deal to open their Lucky Bee as the eatery to the roof level bar, Frankie’s Rooftop. And like Costner in FIELD OF DREAMS, they built it and the people have come. Not simply because it opened, but because the food and the space is bloody awesome!
THE LUCKY BEE/ FRANKIE’S ROOFTOP BAR VENUE:
The Lucky Bee is located in the rooftop bar of Frankie’s Rooftop which is part of The Bayview Hotel. It’s a mouthful of a location. You arrive at The Bayview Hotel and it’s a decent pub, it’s nicely furnished having recently been renovated, but isn’t a memorable knockout. To the side of the venue you see stairs (and maybe a lift) that takes you up to Frankie’s Rooftop, you walk into the 60 seat venue and you are in a tropical, flamboyant rainbow of colours and muted wood venue. The brightness mostly comes from the chilli or tropical vinyl table coverings. They give off a Mexican vibe but they can also suit the South East Asian Street Food Tapas restaurant.
There is a lot of muted wood, exposed bricks, small and mostly open kitchen, the bar, a lot of bar stools around higher tables and a balcony of plants overlooking Woy Woy. It is intimate, but it totally vibes a welcoming party place and it was jammed packed within an hour. There is some couches with nice cushions and plenty of staff. The space is small but it comes alive quickly and feels a hell of a lot bigger.
I was there for the food review with big thanks to This Is The Central Coast and Scout PR but I had two school friends who lived on the coast and they both brought partners and we were going to enjoy the shit out of this catch up. Rupert and Matty kindly gave us about $150- credit on food, so we ordered a lot and then dropped an extra $600- mostly on alcohol haha, schoolmate Michelle drank about $200- alone on Porn Star Martinis – they were so good!
BARBRA STREISAND’S FAVOURITE BAO AND THE REST OF WHAT WE ORDERED:
Pornstar Martini – Vanilla Vodka, Passionfruit Liqueur, Passionfruit Purée, Vanilla Bean Sugar served with a side of Prosecco
Getting Caught in the Rain – Frankie’s twist on the classic Pina Colada.
Mt Gay Silver Rum, Pineapple Juice, Mango Purée, Coconut Cream,
Vanilla Bean and Fresh Lime
Popcorn Negroni – no longer on the menu sadly
Betel Leaf, Poached Prawns, Peanut, Ginger, Kaffir Lime, Thai Chilli
Steamed Sesame & Pork Dumplings, Chinese Black Vinegar, Black Bean
Green Papaya Salad, Snake Beans, Roasted Peanuts, Tamarind & Lime
Bao Buns, Twice Cooked Pork Hock, Hoisin, Pickled Cucumber
Grilled Lamb Cutlets, Sweet Soy, Kaffir Lime & Mint Sauce
Grilled Corn with Sriracha Butter
Szechuan Salt & Pepper Whole Fried Fish, Sweet Chilli, Soy
Banana Tapioca Pudding with Coconut, Condensed Milk Toffee and Honeycomb
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Firstly, we knew we were in good hands. Chef Matty was a six-year Longrain alumnus before heading stateside, worked in the kitchen at The Fat Radish before opening The Lucky Bee in 2016. Rupert is a born entertainer so as a maître d’ it is a walk in the park for him, you may recognise him as a recent judge on the All Together Now TV Show. The Village Voice even nominated them as Restaurant Couple of the Year in 2016. Gay Power Food Couple – I need to be besties with these guys!! 😃
The food is all designed to be shared over drinks. Think cocktail bar with EPIC FOOD. It’s a pastiche of the best of Asian street foods. Chef Matty whips up Modern South East Asian food as if he had Thai and Vietnamese parents.
Firstly, the drinks – as good if not better than most cocktail bars in Sydney – it is alcohol porn and you will happily hand over a week’s wages to indulge in their epic creations.
I won’t describe everything we ate – just look at our order above – but I will say Babs has a reason to worship their bao. They’re bigger than normal, extra fluffy and melt in your mouth. The dumplings blew my mind and the grilled corn was a favourite (I think this one is a special or currently off the menu).
ONE OF THE DISHES OF THE YEAR:
And I am no fan of a whole fish, I sat next to a man in hospital when I was a kid with a fish bone wedged in his throat, long story short, they sliced his throat open to remove it and I have been petrified ever since of eating whole fish. BUT – Rupert and one of the amazing staff said I HAD to eat it. I will now order it on every future visit – it is mind blowing!! And for the first time ever szechuan didn’t make my tongue go numb. It was perfectly cooked and extra crispy! Top 3 dishes of the year for me.
For most Sydneysiders Woy Woy is a little far to travel for a meal but THE LUCKY BEE demands a weekend on The Central Coast, in fact the food on the Central Coast demands a long weekend. My Top 20 Restaurants of 2018 (list out soon) has FOUR restaurants from The Central Coast on it. It’s time to take notice a little North of Sydney.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets & 0/1 bonus
THE LUCKY BEE DEETS:
PH: 02 94341 2088
2 The Boulevarde, Woy Woy NSW 2256
PRICING: The Szechuan Salt & Pepper Whole Fried Fish is the most expensive and also the most awesome dish at $49-
Wednesday & Thursday | 5pm to 9pm
Friday to Sunday | Midday to 3pm & 5pm to 9pm
TAKEAWAY: Check with venue
LOCAL DELIVERY: PNo
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes – minimal
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes – minimal
KID FRIENDLY: No
*** Spooning Australia partly dined as Guests of The Lucky Bee ***
For more reviews of Central Coast Restaurants – check them out HERE