After closing the much-lauded Billy Kwong in 2019, beloved restauranteur and celebrity chef Kylie Kwong returned in 2021, much to the delight of hungry Sydneysiders, with her lunchtime-only restaurant in the buzzing South Eveleigh dining precinct.
“This eatery is a celebration of everything I love in life with care, community, collaboration and delicious, life-giving food at its heart," says Kwong. "This is a big shift for me as a restaurateur."
While Billy was all upscale elegance, Lucky Kwong is a simpler affair – a walk-in-only diner that puts accessibility and sustainability front and centre. It takes the form of a casual cafeteria with a focus on "true nourishment," according to Kwong. Her determination to make Cantonese-Australian cuisine with sustainably sourced produce is a thread that carries right through the menu, which she personally oversees at the open-plan kitchen, summoning servers to deliver orders with a distinctive double clap.
The menu is streamlined, though it is augmented with seasonal specials, and as with all her cooking, powered by ingredients from small, local producers, incorporating native ingredients where possible. Think prawn dumplings in Sichuan chilli sauce, wontons in long noodle soup, steamed warrigal greens, and sweet and sticky pork belly with Davidson's plum. Native plants are plucked from the nearby Jiwah First Nations garden, adding to the eco-conscious ethos so vital to Kwong's vision.
Kwong is the kind of restauranteur who puts her values above all else, and this spirit, unsurprisingly, has drawn in like-minded collaborators from across Sydney's food scene. In fact, and the list reads like a rollcall of the city's most inventive and principled chefs: there's tofu and vegetables sourced from Palisa Anderson's Boon Luck Farm and steamed savoury pancakes with toppings like Josh Niland's yellowfin tuna and XO sauce from Fish Butchery.
Only opening for lunch; having such sky-high eco standards; personally overseeing the kitchen: this all speaks to the kind of chef Kwong is – there are easier ways to run a restaurant, yes, but this is the only way to run this one. It's little wonder then that even the name of this restaurant has a deeply personal resonance. Lucky Kwong is the name of the baby son who Kwong and her wife, the artist Nell, sadly lost in 2012.
"It comes from the idea Lucky has taught me about the preciousness of every single moment and to take every opportunity to live a full, rich and meaningful life," says Kwong. "My new place is an acknowledgement and celebration of this transformational journey and yes, because I now feel genuinely Lucky.”
The dining room, set in a repurposed tram shed near Carriageworks, is smaller than Kwong's popularity can sometimes accommodate, so booking in advance is crucial unless you're flying solo. Individual diners can usually be seated at one of the wall-facing benches – great for your belly, but not so good if you're hoping to watch Kwong at work, and trust us, seeing such a culinary great in action is essential viewing.
Lucky Kwong joins a raft of newcomers at South Eveleigh, including Re-, the sustainability-focused bar by Matt Whiley, as well as Eat Fuh, RaRa Chan, and more. The area has long held a draw for Kwong, who is the precinct's ambassador.