1 December 2017

Summer on the coast: Sandbar Dining @ Quays Hotel, Batemans Bay

| Maryann Mussared
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Sandbar Restaurant has an enviable elevated position overlooking the much-loved sandbar of Batemans Bay. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

Batemans Bay will soon get an amazing new bridge that will contribute to the renaissance the busy regional centre is already experiencing. Recently I spent a few days exploring the area, basing myself in the smartly renovated Quays Hotel, just along Beach Road from the town centre.

The view from the Sandbar Restaurant is interesting any time of day. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

The Quays is providing much-needed quality business and holiday accommodation for Batemans Bay and surrounding areas. The restaurant located on the first floor is of particular interest: ‘Sandbar Lounge & Dining’ ranks as an international-standard restaurant serving food that would stand up to close scrutiny in Sydney or London. With lovely views of the Bay and sandbar, and adjacent to the busy Marina, the restaurant and hotel are now linked to the town centre by an attractive and well-used boardwalk that runs 900 metres along the shoreline.

Sandbar is managed separately to the hotel but decorated in the same relaxing Scandinavian minimalist style that is currently so in vogue. The dining area and adjacent lounge create the perfect setting for the type of dining experience and haute cuisine that internationally trained chef David Tinker knows so much about. The combination of soft hip music, mood lighting and the view of the Bay add to the expectation of what will be revealed on the menu.

Sandbar Dining. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

Chef David Tinker is well-known in the Sydney food scene after spending time working for French-Canadian celebrity chef Serge Dansereau at the busy historic ‘Bathers’ Pavillion’ on Balmoral Beach. He most recently spent four years in central London working as Senior Sous Chef for the inspired master chef Pierre Gagnaire at his completely inspired two-hatted Michelin establishment ‘Sketch’ just off Regents Street. Now he has returned to this particular part of Australia where he spent his childhood, and is investing his energy and skill in creating a unique dining experience for Batemans Bay and its many visitors.

Clyde River oysters, yuzu-miso-yaki, celeriac, parsley, grapefruit. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

David is combining his enviable experience in French haute cuisine with a Japanese fusion. His formula of a six-course degustation allows him to plan his menu around what is local and what is in season. From Clyde River oysters to Lake Eucumbene trout, and Bermagui octopus, he creates a perfectly balanced menu with many flavours that retain their individual identity. The evening I dined, six courses were listed, although a seventh dish – a silky textured, gently sweetened tofu and fresh berry compote – was slipped in. The ‘main’ course of eye fillet with smoked eel bordelaise was standout in taste, with a small but perfectly cooked tender fillet.

Chef David Tinker. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

I am usually a two-course only diner, so initially I was a little nervous about six courses, but I need not have worried. Not only was the quantity perfect, but service was well-timed and each dish is a complete revelation, including one I almost couldn’t bear to eat because it was so beautifully presented.

Scallop, nashi, peach, lemon balm, celery, daikon, cherry, ginger, leek ash, salmon caviar. Photo: Maryann Mussared

This is the sort of occasion when you just have to trust the chef. I loved the artful construction of the individual dishes and the way the colours and textures worked together, but as with every good degustation, I was left wanting more of the individual small courses, not less.

Accompanying the meal was excellent sourdough from Les Gourmandises French Bakery and Patisserie in Moruya. A nice bit of bread was absolutely essential when the next dish arrived, as I knew not a drop of the creamy piquant sauce flavoured with Noilly Prat was to be wasted.

Bermagui octopus, spring cabbage, cucumber, dill, salsify, Noilly Prat, red onion. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

I decided to keep the menu close at hand to assist with deciphering the individual ingredients, but it proved not to be necessary as David’s wife Tomoyo, who was managing front of the house for the evening, explained each dish as it arrived.

Lake Eucumbene aburi trout, asparagus, cabernet sauvignon pickled shiso, apple, peas, honeydew, sake, wasabi. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

The final course was a creamy chocolate concoction. I loved discovering that the white chocolate was, in fact, green, as it had been mixed with pureed basil. I found it very much to my liking, especially the addition of the whisky and bitter orange segments.

Kyoto Matcha white chocolate pot de creme, orange, whiskey, basil, bitter chocolate, almond, cacao. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

The drinks list covers all tastes, with Japanese beer and sake, a particularly good dry organic gin from the Mt Uncle Distillery, and wine from Australian wine districts as well as some interesting German, French and Italian wines; all reflecting David’s international experience. There are a number of sake which would have been an excellent accompaniment to the different dishes. Perhaps I should have been more adventurous, but the quaffable Waihopai Pinot Grigio from Martinborough NZ was a good choice. As I finished my meal, I didn’t feel too full, but after a sudden impressive coastal storm, I was glad I was able to walk back to my room in the hotel complex. At $90 (plus GST) for the seven courses, plus wine, this will be regarded by most as a special destination restaurant.

Quays Hotel offers attractive contemporary rooms and all have Nespresso machines. Photo: Quays Hotel.

Quays Hotel has undergone an extensive and stylish renovation presenting comfortable modern accommodation. It offers cool, comfortable modern rooms and good parking right opposite the Bay and sandbar. The co-location of Sandbar Lounge and Dining is an added bonus for foodies travelling the evermore interesting coastal route.

Interesting view from Quays Hotel over the sandbar which disappears pretty quickly once the tide turns. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

Sandbar Dining and Lounge, 60 Beach Road, Batemans Bay. Early reservations for the holiday season are essential and remember to advise any special dietary requirements at the time of booking. Phone (02) 4472 6488.

Quays Hotel expects to be busy for the holiday season. You can book online here or phone (02) 4472 9777.

Batemans Bay is approximately 150 kilometres and a 2-hour drive from the centre of Canberra.

The Quays has garden areas, including a giant chess set and this interesting centrally located sculpture.

The writer was a guest of Sandbar Lounge & Dining and Quays Hotel.

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