David Tinker was born and raised on the NSW South Coast. He grew up fishing and surfing the turquoise waters of Durras, just north of Batemans Bay.
Interested in cooking from an early age, a determined young David commenced a chef’s apprenticeship while still at school, working at the Bay’s Starfish Deli from years eight to 10.
Then with the permission of his parents, David left school, heading to the Bawley Point Guest House for the second two years of his apprenticeship.
Keen to keep learning after his apprenticeship, David applied for a job at Sydney’s iconic Bathers’ Pavilion at Balmoral Beach, then under the direction of renowned chef Serge Danserau. At the interview, Danserau himself offered Tinker a full-time job, and so, at 17 years of age “it was off we go to Sydney”.
Starting out in the Pavilion’s cafe kitchen, David soon moved to the fine dining restaurant, and graduated to sous chef. “It gave me so much confidence, and after four years, with me still so young, I wanted to move and keep learning, in case it was all a fluke.”
So Tinker took himself off to London and a job at Sketch Restaurant in Mayfair, under the three Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire.
One of the world’s best chefs, Gagnaire was then at the forefront of the ‘fusion cuisine’ movement, and has been described as having ripped up the conventions of classic French cooking, by introducing jarring juxtapositions of flavours, tastes, textures, and ingredients.
Citing Gagnaire as a huge influence, Tinker absorbed all he could from this maverick, saying “He gave me the tools to feel freedom in the kitchen,”
The young Aussie put his head down, worked hard and soon became head sous chef. And then David met Tomoyo.
Now David’s wife, Japanese-born Tomoyo was studying French patisserie in London at the time they met. The couple headed back to Australia to raise their family, opening Sandbar soon after they arrived back to David’s home turf on the South Coast.
At the time they arrived home, the Quays Hotel on the shores of the Bay’s Clyde River was being renovated, and the first-floor dining room was vacant. The owner offered David and Tomoyo six months free rent to see if they could make a restaurant work in the space, and they haven’t looked back.
Fast forward thirteen years…
Tinker says the Sandbar restaurant “really is the story of my life and my marriage. Trained in the French method and meeting my Japanese wife, always working with French chefs and with this interest in Japanese food”.
Sandbar offers a five-course degustation, set menu, with an additional welcome dish, and a wine and sake list that is as much a part of the menu as the hero ingredients.
“Tomoyo studies wine and researches everything, and we try everything. Nothing goes on the list that we don’t like ourselves,” says Tinker.
Very much part of the experience at Sandbar is the beautiful handcrafted Japanese tableware and glassware, sourced by the couple, and a delight to hold, adding to the sensory pleasure.
The menu changes at least seasonally, or as ingredients become available or not available. Constantly evolving, David has not yet repeated a single dish on his menus.
One can’t help but feel excited for the Sandbar’s young apprentice, Ryan. To work with such a creative and skilled chef on the South Coast of NSW is a rare opportunity.
“Ryan likes cooking as much as me, and he works hard,” Tinker says. This is a culinary story that has a long future, we predict.”
Recently we dined at the Sandbar, enjoying one of the best meals we’ve had.
In an upholstered room of muted tones, looking over the Clyde River and its remnants of a 1970s era, with the voices of locals beginning an evening’s celebration, the dishes arrived like works of art.
One after the other, accompanied by French bubbles, an organic rose or a sweet plum sake, we explored deep layers of flavour and tiny, extraordinary accents, contrasting flavours with suggested approaches from delightful staff.
David and Tomoyo’s restaurant is an experience waiting for you, hiding in plain sight in riverside Batemans Bay. We are all lucky this impressive, creative chef decided to come home to the coast he loves.
The Sandbar Restaurant – five-course degustation $139. Wines and Sake can be matched for a further $115
Bookings The Sandbar Restaurant.