At 75, Raymond Ng is not letting a natural disaster stop him doing what he loves – cooking up a storm for patrons in his iconic NSW South Coast restaurant.
Raymond’s Chinese Restaurant has been an institution in Batemans Bay for more than 30 years and its namesake is determined the firestorm that engulfed Malua Bay on New Year’s Eve 2019 won’t become his swansong.
“He said, ‘I’m not retiring with a burnt-down restaurant,'” says Raymond’s youngest daughter, Emily Ng.
When it comes to surviving heat in the kitchen, Raymond has had more than his fair share of experience.
In 2009, the deep-fryer in his restaurant caught alight. Raymond fought the blaze until the fire brigade arrived, saving his restaurant but badly burning his face.
“He had third-degree burns to half his face and down his neck,” says Emily. “He was taken to the Concord Burns Unit [in Sydney].
“That was the turning point for our family. We realised he couldn’t keep running two restaurants.”
Instead, Raymond leased his Batemans Bay premises and focused solely on Raymond’s at Malua Bay Bowling Club.
The draw of the popular restaurant helped revive a flagging small venue, drawing patrons from Canberra and beyond. Queues were a common sight at his monthly all-you-can-eat buffet.
The venue was completely renovated as part of an $800,000 makeover of the club that was to be officially launched in January this year.
Before that could happen, the Black Summer bushfires tore through the complex, completely destroying the club.
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“New Year’s Day is usually our biggest trading day of the year,” says Emily. “Dad had gone to the restaurant early on New Year’s Eve to prepare. He was prepping in the kitchen at 9.30 am when the manager told him he had to leave. The club burnt down at 10:15 am.
“He was really lucky to have gotten out. But he was devastated. He wouldn’t believe it had burnt down. As soon as he could drive back there he went to have a look.
“He was just heartbroken. Gutted.”
The family tried to convince Raymond to call it a day, or move to Sydney and open a small takeaway.
They should have known better.
The courage and fighting spirit that first brought Raymond and his wife, Susie, to Australia wouldn’t let that happen.
Born in southern China, Raymond has been through many experiences in his life. The eldest of eight, he was a tailor as a teen before a friend introduced him to the passion of his life: cooking.
His grandmother brought Raymond and Susie to Australia. They settled in Adelaide and had their first child.
“One day they got in the car and just started driving,” says Emily. “The beauty of Batemans Bay kept them here. They bought a block in town and opened a restaurant.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“He loves Batemans Bay,” says Emily. “He loves that people come up to him in the street.
“When people say they love his cooking, that’s his happy place. He loves saying ‘everyone loves Raymond’ – and they do. He has done incredibly well.”
With a restaurant space available in the newly opened Abode Hotel in Malua Bay, Raymond and Susie started working towards an October 2020 reopening.
The couple’s three children – Elaine, Cameron and Emily – have all helped establish the new restaurant, Raymond’s at Malua Bay, along with business partner and best friend Jack Tram.
“The past two weeks, he’s been the happiest I’ve seen him,” says Emily. “We are reopening and we think so many of the Canberra friends we knew from the club will come.
“The Abode at Malua Bay is beachfront – we can see the ocean. We are expecting this summer to be much better than the last one.”
Raymond’s at Malua Bay opened on Tuesday (6 October). Its opening night was a sell-out.
Raymond’s is located at 4 Kuppa Avenue, Malua Bay. To book your table, call 4471 3848. Visit Facebook to learn more.