BRITISH-BORN Toby Pinhol quickly recognised the regional town of Hamilton as the ideal place to bring city quality to country people.
Mr Pinhol is the owner/operator of Tosca Browns, a unique and eclectic coffee house on Gray Street which opened in April last year.
What began two years ago as a “few months’ travel” in Australia for Mr Pinhol, now 22, led to a whirlwind romance in Lightning Ridge with Georgie Rees, 25.
After stints in Wagga Wagga and Melbourne, the couple settled in Hamilton early in 2013 after Miss Rees secured post-graduate work in her field of agricultural science.
Miss Rees had previously attended secondary school in Hamilton and now works with Elders as an agronomist.
Mr Pinhol said he developed a love of food and service while in Australia and worked under chef Jacques Reymond for a short period.
When he arrived in Hamilton, he realised how his love for the industry could translate into something he could take control of — his own business.
“I remember thinking, it’s a small country town, I can do something on my own here. I can set it up and I don’t have to work for someone else,” he said.
“I’d figured I’d learnt so much and I was inspired by people like (French chef) Raymond Blanc back home. He came over to England as a waiter when he was 19 just as an odd job.”
Today Raymond Blanc is one of Britain’s most respected chefs and is known for being entirely self-taught.
Mr Pinhol said the focus at Tosca Browns’ was quality and he found Hamilton locals appreciated that.
“There’s no reason why we can’t have city quality in the country.
“I learnt a lot from Jaques and I really wanted to create something unique. We have the Royal Mail (Hotel, at Dunkeld) down the road which is a juggernaut of a three-hat restaurant and there’s no reason why we can’t produce the same quality.”
Mr Pinhol said he was keen to expand Tosca Browns as the couple settle into country life.
“I think Hamilton has got so much potential, so much potential for investment.
“I like the fact you get to recognise everyone. There’s definitely a community feel about it. It would be lovely if we have the opportunity to expand a bit where we are now.”
Partner Georgie said she preferred living in the country to the city.
“I’ve always been brought up in the country and I just love the atmosphere and the people too — the characters you meet are great,” Georgie said.