TRUE to its name, the Lucky Hotel has managed to operate in Newcastle, albeit on and off and under different guises, since the 1800s, which is a mighty accomplishment for any business, but especially for one in Newcastle.
My earliest memory of the place was in the late 1990s when it was the sweetheart of the music scene and still called the Lucky Country, replete with sticky carpet and dark corners. My recollections are vague, but I remember the music was loud and the bar was busy. And that carpet.
After undergoing a massive multi-million dollar refurbishment, completed in 2014 by the McCloy Group, new life has been breathed once again into the old girl.
The space is sectioned into different areas which serve different purposes and atmospheres. A rustic front bar with exposed brick and thick wooden beams greets you upon entry. The central decoration is a drum kit chandelier, a proud reminder of the establishment’s past as a beloved music venue.
An elegant champagne room with rich ruby velvet furnishings is a great place for private functions or a quieter drink, while the unexpected internal atrium with greenery and cathedral ceilings provides a mix of bar and dining areas for all ages. It’s an awesome space, hidden from the main street. Recently, the Lucky has been screening classic films in the courtyard, as well as live acoustic music.
The food focus is on the good old American barbecue, and the menu suits the casual atmosphere of the hotel. The meals coming out of the kitchen and the barbecue pit are meaty, smoky and hearty, but there are still options for those who aren’t huge carnivores. You can book a table in the atrium, otherwise grab a pew, sit back and relax – just order and pay at the counter when you’re ready.
The menu is divvied up into shares and sides, mains, burgers, salads and house-smoked plates and platters. To start, you could share a bowl deep-fried pickles – small, sweet and tangy gherkins fried in a crunchy batter and served with a ranch dipping sauce. Or try popcorn chicken, an easy enough dish to unconsciously devour while you’re talking and sipping. Jalapeno cornbread is sweet with a hint of heat and arrives in chunky slices. Otherwise Cajun fried shrimp with a zesty aioli is a tasty way to get things started.
Always check the board for the specials of the day – the market fish or perhaps a pasta special.
When you’re ready to move on to mains, the absolute go-to dish is the Lucky’s mouth-watering smoked beef brisket burger. It’s juicy and sweet and comes laden with charred onions and melted gooey cheese. Served on a brioche bun that’s not too sweet, a serving of chips is on the side and it’s juice-running-down-your-fingers delish. The fried chicken burger hits the same notes if you’d prefer the bird.
If you’ve brought your appetite, go the whole hog and order up a house-smoked meat fest: a big pig platter featuring pork ribs, pulled pork and pork sausages; or the pit master platter which comes with the addition of beef short ribs and Cajun chicken wings. And it all comes with fries, slaw and a pickle. White meat fans can try Mama’s chicken-fried chicken or the fish of the day. There are also robust salads, dawgs and that old Southern staple, gumbo.
If you have any room left at the end, classic waffles and ice-cream, key lime pie or a sundae special should push you to bursting point.
The food here is straightforward and carnivorous – this is a pub in her bones, after all. Speaking of which, there’s a great tap beer selection with new craft and old favourites, with a pleasing wine offering too.
- What: The Lucky Hotel
- Where: 237 Hunter St, Newcastle. 4925 8888
- Hours: 11am til late, 7 days
- Chef: Jordan Silcock
- Drinks: Plenty of brews on tap, predominantly Australian wines by the bottle and glass, champagnes, spirits, cocktails.
- Vegetarian: Plenty of shares and sides, salads, and a burger.
- Wheelchair: Yes.
- Bottom line: Around $60 for 2 starters and 2 mains.
- Do Try: The smoked beef brisket burger with chips.