The Lucky Bee

“We realised, ‘wow, people around the Coast are really loving it’,” says Rupert.

From the bright lights of New York City to the sleepiness of Woy Woy Bay, Rupert Noffs and Matty Bennett are stirring the pot in a way they only can. They’ve brought their signature culinary flair to the Central Coast with The Lucky Bee. The modern Southeast Asian restaurant has been turning heads since opening in June 2018 and it’s easy to see why. With dishes such as local oysters with chilli nahm jim and Szechuan salt and pepper chicken wings, The Lucky Bee is a far cry from your typical Thai eatery.

 

Their food style comes from a decade and a half of travel throughout Southeast Asia, as well as years spent in both Sydney and New York. Matty, who’s co-owner and head chef at The Lucky Bee, hails from Manchester, in the United Kingdom, but moved to North Bondi after meeting Rupert. Not long after his arrival, he landed a job as sous chef in the kitchen of Longrain, one of Sydney’s most esteemed modern Asian restaurants. It was during this time Rupert and Matty began their affair with Southeast Asia and its varied cuisine. 

“We just fell in love with the culture, the food, the flavours – the salty, the sour, the sweet and the spicy,” says The Lucky Bee co-owner and director Rupert. “It’s just a beautiful cuisine and a beautiful culture…”

Rupert describes the restaurant’s dishes as seasonal and fresh, and says they are a mix between Matty’s British heritage, his experience at Longrain and his training in farm to table at The Fat Radish in New York. But the menu at The Lucky Bee – a mixture of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese – is something the couple has been honing for a long time. Expect to see betel leaf with poached prawns and kaffir lime; green papaya salad with snake beans and roasted peanuts; and Szechuan whole fried fish. The creative options are bound to keep you guessing – and returning.

The couple didn’t move to the Central Coast on a whim. In 2015, a few years prior to opening, the pair tested the waters with a pop-up restaurant over two nights at Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf. Both evenings were sold out and it was then Rupert and Matty discovered the steady wave of professionals relocating from Sydney to the Coast who were seeking the same sophisticated food and impeccable service they were accustomed to in the city.

“We realised, ‘wow, people around the Coast are really loving it’,” says Rupert. 

But they weren’t ready to settle on the Peninsula just yet; they had other dreams. So it was, in 2011, that Rupert took his retail business and Matty his chef skills to The Big Apple to try their luck in the city that never sleeps. After five years of living the Soho life they took the leap to embark on a joint business venture that led to the birth of The Lucky Bee New York. It was quickly a hit, especially with Australian expats.

“Every single night the whole place sounded like an RSL club,” Rupert laughs.

In spite of their success, and a steady stream of celebrity diners, they hadn’t forgotten their Aussie roots and, after seven years, decided to return home. But that home was no longer Bondi, with family having moved to the Central Coast. Rupert and Matty followed, and when they laid eyes on Woy Woy’s revamped Bayview Hotel, they knew they’d found the next home for The Lucky Bee.

Influenced by a handful of other young entrepreneurs opening venues on the Peninsula, and being opposite Woy Woy train station and therefore an hour’s journey from the city, the guys knew they’d found a great location. Their pop-up restaurant years prior had also been a good indication they would see success in the region, and they were impressed by the Bayview’s new Frankie’s Rooftop cocktail bar. Rupert admits he also wanted to question the status quo when it came to traditional Thai on the Coast.

“I love making people think,” he says. “I love changing people’s perspective. I love being disruptive; I think it’s just in my human nature. I’ve always been like that.”

Although The Lucky Bee was launched in the cool and quiet of winter, the restaurant has been fully booked since doors opened.

“The reaction has just been incredible,” says Rupert.

“We weren’t really expecting it… (we’ve had) so much great feedback.”

Serving lunch Friday to Sunday and dinner Wednesday to Sunday, diners can expect a surprising menu, well beyond pad Thai. It’s Southeast Asian but with hints of Chinese, with dishes such as twice-cooked pork hock bao buns with hoisin and pickled cucumber, and pork and sesame dumplings with Chinese black vinegar. The dishes are designed to be shared with family and friends, with a mix of small and large plates, and rice on the side. The Lucky Bee is all about coming together with family and enjoying a unique meal, with a Frankie cocktail in hand, of course.

You can find The Lucky Bee at Frankies Rooftop Bar.

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