Talk about buzzy openings. The Lucky Bee, a Southeast Asian “electric tropical paradise,” is slated to bring its spicy, sustainable street food to 252 Broome Street, and owners Rupert Noffs and Matty Bennett love honey so much they’re bringing their own bees.
“We want our customers to come in and feel like they’re part of this family and to know where the food is coming from,” Noffs said. Bennett said he’s eager to introduce the neighborhood to dishes that reflect his love for the hot, sweet, salty and sour elements of the Cambodian and Vietnamese food he cooked at Longrain restaurant in Australia, combined with his experience at the LES “farm to table” localvore haunt Fat Radish. Some items on the menu-in-progress: coconut-braised beef short ribs with lemongrass and Thai basil, green curry of heritage goat with apple eggplant and pickled mustard seeds, and roasted half chicken with tamarind prik nam pla.
Bennett and Noffs are making it their mission to support local beekeepers by using raw, local honey (from Andrew’s Honey) in their signature cocktails and offering their space as a meeting place for the New York City Beekeepers Association. “That’s something we’re passionate about, wanting to give back to the local community in New York,” said Noffs.
With that mantra in mind, the restaurateurs are working with New York City beekeeper Andrew Cote, of Andrew’s Honey, to install two to four hives on the roof of The Lucky Bee’s building. Cote will oversee the project and tend to the hives, which will house up to 300,000 bees and produce about 80 pounds of honey per hive each year. The concept seems likely to resonate with diners given the recent drop in the honeybee population, which has struck chord with the public and spawned several recent articles, including a New York magazine cover story. “As most of us know, the colony collapse of the bee is kind of scary,” said Noffs. “Without the bees we wouldn’t be here.” Indeed, the New York article states that honey bees are responsible for one in four bites of the food we consume every day.
“Andrew is teaching us all about it,” Noffs said. “Basically, a lot of farmers have been putting pressure on bees to eat certain food. They drive the bees around, and the bees are only feeding off of one or two crops. It’s like eating chocolate and packets of chips your whole life.” There are other major factors at play as well, but as the New York article explains, pesticides are also a problem. A recent survey found three insecticides in the average colony; 80 percent of them contained at least one.
Which won’t be a problem for The Lucky Bee’s bees, said Cote. He never keeps his bees in areas that are sprayed with commercial pesticides or GMO crops; the restaurant’s bees will have healthy working conditions pollinating local community gardens, Tompkins Square Park, and City Hall Park. All of which makes for a happy beekeeper, too. “Not only do I get to tend the roof on the very street where I live, but when he’s done with a day of beekeeping a guy’s got to eat and drink as well,” he said.
The hives will be installed next April, Cote said, because it’s difficult to establish a colony in the fall. Eventually Noff and Bennett envision selling their own honey and merchandise, with a portion of the proceeds going back to the beekeepers.
The Lucky Bee should be well on its way to opening, as it gained the support of Community Board 3’s SLA Committee in their application for a liquor license at a meeting earlier this week. They get the keys to what’s now home of Jin Restaurant in late August and plan to spend about a month renovating.
“There was an established restaurant already there, so we’re not going to be doing any construction, just a bit of a facelift,” said Noffs. They’ll be working with Chen Chen & Kai Williams, the design studio behind the décor for Mission Chinese and Mission Cantina. “They use really beautiful recycled materials,” Noff said. “At the moment it’s all brown brick walls, so we’re going to paint it white and make it more tropical and fun.”