On the north-east coast of Victoria there’s a rice noodle restaurant travellers claim is the next best thing to a trip to China.

Lucy’s was Mallacoota’s best-kept secret. Then word spread that this small restaurant on Victoria ‘s remote north-east coast was serving some of the best and most authentic rice noodle dishes this side of China.

Owners Lucy and Tony Wood say that in the 18 months since they opened, the number of travellers who detour the 20 kilometres from the Princes Highway to seek them out is steadily increasing.

Lucy Wood

Lucy’s popularity is hardly surprising. “We’re both passionate about doing something that is 100 per cent authentic and we saw the need for food that was not too expensive but fresh and wholesome”, Tony says. “We are so authentic that when we make our own noodles every morning we start with grinding our rice”, adds Chinese-born Lucy.

Rather than rely on finding the right produce in their isolated location, they grow all the vegetables and herbs required. The hydroponic garden out the back resembles a mini market garden, filled with rows of succulent Asian greens. Choy sum, pak choy, bok choy and wombok grow alongside herbs such as Chinese basil, garlic, chives and shallots. These ingredients are married in bowls of noodles with pork, chicken, beef, tofu, prawns or local abalone.

Lucy and Tony's hydro garden

“We grow 15 different herbs and spices, and we have to buy in only occasionally”, Lucy says, adding that her grandmother and mother, who live nearby in Mallacoota, supply coriander and chilli sauce.

A friend taught Lucy to make traditional rice noodles. “We go to China every year,” Tony explains”, but this time we had to stay six months for Lucy to learn how to make the noodles properly”. They imported a noodle-making machine from China and use Thai rice, as Australian varieties are too sticky.

Lucy was no stranger to cooking Chinese cuisine, having previously run her own restaurant, Seven Star Teahouse, in Nanning in the province of Guangxi. When she travelled to Australia in 1999 she met Tony, a former farmer, in Sydney. “I went back to China with Lucy and helped her in the restaurant for a while,” he says. Back in Australia they searched for somewhere to settle. “We went to Cooktown and back looking for a place – and we found it in Mallacoota,” Tony says. “‘We’ve got wilderness all round us, no traffic lights… and it’s unique”.

Their first enterprise was a video shop and second-hand store but now the restaurant, with its lively pink, lime-green and black decor, occupies the front of the building. Lucy’s is open for breakfast, when more Western fare is on offer. “We do bacon-and-eggs for breakfast, and coffee – and we’ll be doing pastries soon too”, Lucy says.

Yet the Woods remain committed to Chinene cusine. Says Tony, “On our last trip to China we learnt how to do Peking Duck from an old master out in the farmlands”. You get the feeling that it won’t be long before Peking duck is also on the menu.

Lucy’s Homemade Rice Noodles is at 64 Maurice Avenue, Mallacoota Victoria. (03) 5158 0466