A MULTICULTURAL team in the kitchen at The Lucky has paved the way for new flavours on the menu.
Originally home to American-style barbecue, the inner-city hotel's kitchen has traded smoked meats in favour of a Cali-Mexican-inspired menu using house-made marinades and sauces to create dishes full of flavour and ideal for sharing.
"We have a multicultural team behind us in the kitchen which really works to our advantage when we want to branch out and offer more than your standard pub food," The Lucky's co-owner Blake Nash says.
Mexican-inspired mains include pollo verde cumin and lime chicken breast with salsa verde couscous, rocket, coriander and coconut cream sauce ($28); BBQ squid and prawns with guajillo-garlic sauce, chorizo, green rice, spinach, parsley and grilled lime ($32); and burritos: grilled chipotle chicken, crispy fish or roast vegetables (all $19).
The kitchen's imported smoker still gets a work-out, adding flavour to chicken wings (with a choice of sticky sweet chilli and lime or Cajun salt and chipotle, both $16) and carne asada smoked flank steak with chimichurri, grilled onions and capsicum, smoked eggplant, guacamole, flour tortillas, lime and fried jalapenos ($30).
The Mexi-Cali flavours are strong on the shared menu with charred corn pops with lime and paprika glaze, coriander and chipotle mayo ($12); beef and chorizo meatballs with quest, adobo sauce, coriander and flavour tortillas ($17); and chilli cheese fries with chilli con carne, quest and sriracha mayo ($14).
Lighter options include a burrito bowl with grilled chipotle chicken, green rice, pico de gallo, queso, guacamole, coriander, charred corn and lemon ($25); and chipotle tofu salad with edamame, shredded cabbage and pickled carrot, rocket, and coriander lime dressing ($22).
The menu also covers a handful of pub staples with crumbed chicken, fries and salad ($24); rump steak with garlic mash and greens ($28); and the Lucky beef burger with wagyu beef patty, lettuce, bacon, tomato, onion, pickles, cheese and burger sauce on a milk bun ($20).
A vegan menu includes several options, as well as dishes that can be altered to gluten-free. The Lucky has introduced a late-night menu for those after something more substantial, and a takeaway hamper basket filled with gourmet wraps, sides, dessert and a bottle of wine ($69).
"We introduced the hamper during COVID as a takeaway option and have kept it as a picnic-style option for anyone that wants to find an amazing place in the city to go and set up a picnic and enjoy our food," Nash says.
The Lucky has arguably undergone the biggest transformation of any pub in the city. Previously operating as The Lucky Country, which was one of Newcastle's favourite dive bars with karaoke, live music and $2 shots, the venue closed in the 2000s and fell into a deteriorated state before it was reborn as The Lucky in 2014.
The centre courtyard is an impressive open-plan space, with vertical gardens and light spilling in from the perspex ceiling which creates the sense of being outdoors. Original brickwork is preserved and forms part of the aesthetic design which showcases the pub's old bones, while the facade has been restored to its original grandeur.
Look a little closer to appreciate quirky design inclusions: an original fireplace remains visible, built high into the wall in the front drum bar where a deconstructed drum kit hangs from the ceiling. A large-scale work by Archibald Prize-winning Newcastle artist Nigel Milsom and a giant mural by LA street artist Tristan Eaton are both worth taking in. Recent updates include a space known as The Oxford Room, which features custom red leather seating and a bar service area that can be booked for private events.
- Where: 237 Hunter Street, Newcastle.
- Food: Restaurant open for lunch and dinner Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday until 9pm; Friday and Saturday until 9.30pm. Weekday lunch specials include any burger or burrito for $15 from 11.30am to 2.30pm.
- Drinks: 12 beers and cider on tap, mainstream and craft; plus cocktail menu and extensive wine list.
- Drink to try: Lava Boat cocktail with silver tequila, passionfruit liqueur, Licor 43, Aperol, lime and sugar.
- Dish to try: El Banquette (serves two) with Mex meatballs, grilled chipotle chicken, chorizo, green rice, charred corn pops, pico de gallo, guacamole and flour tortillas ($75).