What makes the duo behind The Lucky Bee tick?
Since 2013, HUNTERhunter has been getting the behind-the-scenes stories of our go-to hospitality and lifestyle businesses. We’ve been talking to the people behind the brands about where they’ve come from, how they got to where they are, and where they’re headed.
But what about the behind-the-scenes of their own lives? Where do they go to eat? What do they drink? Where do they spend their time? Ultimately, what really makes them tick?
Introducing HUNTERhunter’s newest series, SPILL. Where we’ll be sitting down with some of the well-known and maybe not-so-well-known faces and voices of the Central Coast and ask them to SPILL.
Without further ado, let us introduce you to our very first SPILL of the Central Coast – foodie duo Rupert Noffs and Matty Bennett of Ettalong Beach’s The Lucky Bee.
What and where would people recognise you both from?
In the kitchen and on the floor of our restaurant, The Lucky Bee in Ettalong Beach.
Where are you both originally from?
I grew up in North Bondi and Matty’s from Manchester, UK.
What made you decide to make the Central Coast home?
In 2010, both of us moved to New York City, while my entire family found a new home on the Coast. I visited when I was a teenager a lot. As soon as I got a driver’s license, I would head to the coast to get away.
Each February, for seven years, Matty and I would return from New York City. The melting snow transforms sidewalks into treacherous black ice, the holiday decorations have disappeared, and ironically, Australia shines in its best light—warmer, sunnier, and tan-worthy.
We always said, if we ever headed back to Australia, the coast was where we'd settle. Also, my mum was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s in her 60’s – super young. So, we also wanted to look after my mum and dad.
Where’s your late-night hangout spot?
Usually at The Lucky Bee after service, or at Bar Toto next door, but most probably in bed!
What’s your coffee order?
My go-to is a classic latte with regular milk. Ever since our trip to Italy, I've been hooked and can't settle for anything else. I experimented with oat milk, but it just doesn't measure up.
Matty, hailing from the North, prefers Yorkshire tea, and I've crafted his cuppa by adding boiling water to steep the tea bag before topping it up with hot, frothy milk from the machine.
Following a leisurely lunch, I tend to opt for a macchiato, while Matty's choice is a Fernet Branca. Coffee tends to make Matty a tad anxious. He's gone as far as saying the very aroma triggers anxiety! You can take a boy out of Manchester but you can’t take the Manchester out of the boy – haha!
Speaking of coffee, which local venue knows your order by heart?
Our Breville machine, the remarkable Oracle (not sponsored, but come at me Breville!) is my go-to.
I value it dearly because, during a recent move, it narrowly escaped a hazardous staircase mishap. It tumbled down, meeting a brick wall. Remarkably, the damage was minimal – just a few scratches. Now, every morning as I brew our coffee, I find myself offering a little apology to it.
If I’m not enjoying coffee at home, then it will be at Loo Loo's Coffee Shack, down the road in MacMasters Beach. They're true coffee artisans, oh and their toasties are delicious!
Tell me about your biggest career highlight…
When The Lucky Bee opened in downtown Manhattan, TimeOut featured us and we immediately got a call from the iconic Florence Fabricant from The New York Times. Florence visited our unfinished space in Lower East Side – a rare move for her – and a week later, we graced the front cover of The Times' food section.
Then came the names!
We had Prime Minister Julia Gillard pay us a visit, along with Sir Salman Rushdie and actress, Diane Kruger. We hosted parties for the Zimmerman sisters during Fashion Week, and Rufus Wainwright, after his Carnegie Hall performance.
Matty also cooked his famous Bao Buns for Barbra Streisand a few times. The first time we hand delivered them to her at The Plaza Hotel, and then when she was in town for the Tribeca Film Festival. Actually, that time she was flying out in the afternoon and requested cooking instructions for her chef to prepare on her private jet.
I checked in with her Co-Director, Richard Jay-Alexander to see if they enjoyed them, he came back and said they were eating them in her recording studio in Malibu whilst recording her ‘Encore’ album. That’s such a New York story!
In your spare time, what are your THREE top favourite things to do on the Central Coast?
Little Beach stands as our nearby paradise, often deserted. Following that, we stroll along the juncture of the ocean and the boardwalk at Bouddi National Park.
We love our coastal drives and a cold beer on The Balcony at Shelly Beach. Another favourite is a staycation in a safari tent at NRMA Ocean Beach Holiday Resort.
Renting a houseboat along the Hawkesbury River is a cherished activity of ours. We gather goodies from nearby markets for fresh produce, meat, and baked goods.
Our evenings are dedicated to wine, card games, and Old Jamaica chocolate.
If you wanted to dazzle your out-of-town friends and family, where would you take them?
We hosted our NYC pal, the incredible singer and performer Amber Martin, after her Adelaide Cabaret Festival gig a while back. We embarked on a BBQ pontoon adventure – sipped rosé, grilled hot dogs, and hit Lobster Beach.
Then we dined at Wildflower Bar & Dining at Bells for dinner and had martinis and caviar. It actually was a perfect Central Coast day.
Beer? Wine? Cocktail? Mocktail? What is your tipple of choice and where do you frequently visit?
A dirty martini, Matty with gin, and me with vodka. Preferably with blue-cheese stuffed olives.
Bar Toto, next door to The Lucky Bee, is also great for a Tommy’s Margarita. Oh, one should only have one martini. If you have another, you’ll just keep going. We almost cancelled our wedding because we had one too many martinis at Belmelmans Bar in NYC, the night before.
Pinot Noir is our go-to wine whilst having dinner.
On the daily, what’s guaranteed to make you smile?
The sun, strolling along MacMasters to Copacabana beach, a quick dip in the ocean – it's a routine. Ever seen those videos of hippos in the surf? That's me.
Our garden is another haven. Matty's a newfound green thumb. I was always the gardener, while he ruled the kitchen. Now we've swapped roles. Oh, and finishing the day by the outdoor fire pit.
What do you NEVER leave the house without?
A towel and a bottle opener.
We’re all about keeping it local here at HUNTERhunter – tell me THREE of your favourite local businesses that you live and breathe by and why you couldn’t live without them…
In Avoca, you'll find Like Minds – a café by the wonderful Jimmy & Mel. Their local events and market stalls are all about community spirit. Their ethical approach and abundant love really shine through. They often surprise mum with their homemade goodies, which is so special!
Of course, there's The Galleria in Ettalong, where The Lucky Bee thrives. There’s a cinema, cocktail bar, restaurants, clothing stores, and great coffee. Don't miss Lavesh Yerevan, the Armenian pizza shop, run by an incredibly lovely couple with delicious food.
Over at Osteria il Coccia, Nico and Alex have crafted something extraordinary. Recently adorned with a chef hat, their food is fire-cooked, complemented by Alex's stunning wine list. They're elevating the local scene with a fine dining experience that's truly worth experiencing.
Naughty Noodle Fun Haus, led by the local legends, Glitta and Juan, has made a remarkable impact on the Coast as the foremost arts and culture organisation. Their recent expansion to Gosford provides an exciting venue for Coasties to host events, all within a welcoming and inclusive environment.
Personally, Matty and I’ve had the pleasure of catering for some of their events and even had the privilege of performing at Ettalong's Fun Haus multiple times, including a memorable show last May, featuring my old mate, and Aussie icon Mark Trevorrow (Bob Downe).
What are you reading/watching/listening to now?
We're diving into Season 3 of ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING, featuring the genius trio of Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, not to mention the brilliant guest appearance by Meryl Streep.
Set in the heart of NYC, it's an absolute masterpiece. On another note, we've wrapped up Season 2 of THE BEAR, a show that somehow mirrors our own lives. If hospitality and stress are your thing, it's worth a watch.
If you’re needing a short break away from the coast, where do you go and why?
Kim’s Beachside Retreat in Toowoon Bay. It opened 134 years ago. Old world, Aussie laid-back, beach bungalows. A restaurant that serves fresh, not fussy seafood and delicious cocktails. Some bungalows have their own pool or hot tub and saunas too. Plus, it’s totally kid-free!
Out of the Coast, we head to Worimi country (Port Stephens). The beaches there are some of the best in the world. We love Rick Stein’s at Bannisters, lunch at Bistro Molines in the Hunter Valley, or a weekend in Newcastle. We often head to Gulu-Mada (Blue Mountains) in winter to stay at Lilianfels or get a cute Airbnb.
We also absolutely love Hyams Beach and Jervis Bay.
What’s your go-to playlist?
We love our Lucky Bee playlists and Amber Martin's Yacht Rock mix. Guests at the restaurant often inquire about Amber's playlist, which is filled with soulful deep-cuts and funky classics. Our playlists are a standout feature at The Lucky Bee, as we've aimed for a distinct collection of songs that sets us apart from other restaurants.
You'll find a blend of mostly unheard-of 90s pop, funk, disco, and of course, plenty of yacht rock. Music that makes you bop, smile, and Shazam.
What would you like to see more of on the Central Coast?
English-style pubs or French bistros that come complete with cosy fires and simple dishes like Steak au Poivre and Lambs Fry.
I’d like to also send out an SOS for Uber to rescue us from the clutches of Central Coast Taxis!
We’ve had a few staff Christmas parties in Terrigal, and Matty and I can never get out of there.
Water taxis galore, perhaps? After all, they do call the Central Coast the “Venice of Australia”!
Lucky last – who would you recommend we interview next for SPILL?
Ty Van Emden who owns Rhonda’s in Terrigal.