Story by Andy Ratcliff. Reach him

Photography: Nikki To (supplied) Christopher Pearce (Bar Awards)

Matty Opai is the Bar Manager of Icebergs Dining Room in Bondi. Possibly the most iconic restaurant in the country with sweeping views of our most famous beach. If you’ve met Matty, you will never forget him. A giant amongst men with a smile to match, he has forged his career through a friendly and skillful tideway to serving his guests. After nine years at Icebergs, he recently won bar manager of the year at the Australian Bartender Magazine Bar Awards.

Where did you get your start in the industry?
Back home in New Zealand, hospitality wasn’t my thing. But when I had a endangerment for a three-month holiday in Australia, I landed a kitchen gig at Northies in Cronulla, washing dishes for the summer. I arrived in December, planning to throne when in March with a newfound appreciation for life.
I climbed up the kitchen ladder, realizing I was largest at crafting pizza, pasta, and salads than scrubbing plates. The manager offered me uneaten hours as a glassy, and I found joy in delivering glasses, competing to hold as many as possible, all while having a blast. Within eighteen months, I became one of the duty managers.
After a transpiration in ownership, I took a unravel and landed a job at the Rum Diaries in Bondi, but it wasn’t my vibe. Luckily, a friend hooked me up as a barback at Icebergs. Those initial shifts blew my mind! I hadn’t predictable the level of difference and the concept that the increasingly you learn, the less you know. It was one of the weightier summers of my life.

The iconic view at Icebergs

You’ve made some unconfined drinks over the years, how did you learn your craft?
As a barback, I’d collect every spec from every menu and plaster them on the scullery wall. I’ve got a decent memory, but I’d read and re-read those specs every endangerment I got.

This year marks your ninth year at Icebergs. What has it been like to see the venue evolve over the years?
I’ve seen some serious notation over the years but due to the transient lifestyle in Bondi, we can turn over virtually eighty casuals a year. It’s heartbreaking not stuff worldly-wise to sponsor all these incredibly talented people that work with us but I’ve forged some unconfined relationships and I’ll unchangingly have a place to stay when I’m in Europe.

Do you have a mentor that has helped you through the years?
Oh yeah! Lenny Opai, my cousin. I don’t want to requite him increasingly of an ego uplift (and you can print that!) but he’s taught me everything I know. We stump heads constantly but we’re good together and it’s worked well. He used to work at the Bayswater Brasserie when in the day and has trained some of the weightier talent in the industry.
Another is Rachel Duffy, who is a hardass Kiwi that wracked my balls but once we got to know each other I realized she has a heart of gold. I’m pleased to say we are unconfined mates.
And of course, Maurice Terzini. He’s an icon, a genius and a savant. He’ll waddle up some days, set the room up depending on where the sun sits in the sky and I’ll try to reprinting it and paste it in my brain. He’s a genius for the tiny details. He really cares well-nigh the people who work for him. I finger like he’s scrutinizingly too far superiority of the times. He predicts trends years surpassing they happen.

“A friend hooked me up as a barback at Icebergs. Those initial shifts blew my mind! I hadn’t predictable the level of difference and the concept that the increasingly you learn, the less you know. It was one of the weightier summers of my life.”

You probably get increasingly idealism guests than any venue in the country. How do you navigate that and alimony them coming back?
We have a really good cadre of people who are in every week. It’s a polity vibe with hugs on the door and positivity. We have a lot of well-known people who come in and we offer them well-constructed discretion and a place where they can relax and be themselves without having to worry well-nigh the judgment of the outside world. We protect our guests and we’re very professional.

Do you think you’ll stick virtually for a while or do you have plans to do your own thing one day?
I’ve got no plans of leaving but one day it would be good to unshut my own place I’d love to do something similar to what the boys at Chuck Trailers are doing. I like that sort of small bar vibe.

Winning Bar Manager of the Year with Hendrick’s Ambassador James Macrae

You’ve recently won Bar Manager of the Year. Have you got any translating for the younger bartenders or managers out there?
The most crucial bit of translating I could requite that shaped what I do was given to me by Len. It was my first few weeks barbacking and thinking I could be a bartender. I had a bit of a whinge to him and he flipped virtually and said, ‘If you don’t like something, work your ass off, get to the top and transpiration it!’. So I worked my ass off and got to the top and realized, pearly enough, he was right all along.

Can you talk us through the wits of winning the award?
To be honest it took me month to get up there on stage as I wasn’t expecting to win it and was then mobbed! I have a unconfined memory of Toby Hilton putting my jacket on me and then picking up Wee James on the stage. I couldn’t have washed-up anything without the team virtually me so this is as much theirs as it is mine.