Buffalo Dining Club is an idea that Michael Fantuz, Marcelo Garrao and Peter Kypreos (off Table for 20 fame) have been working on for about 3 years, but they’d never been able to find the right space – until now. In a little street just off Victoria Road in bustling Darlinghurst, work began on the Buffalo Dining Club in January and last month it opened its doors.
The site that used to be an old burger joint is now a hole-in-the-wall wine bar/restaurant crammed with little tables and chairs and boasting the best of what can be done with cheese, Buffalo cheese. But you have to say it like the Italians ‘Booffalo’ – it sounds better than our Aussie ‘Baffalo’. And the speciality is the Buffalo mozzarella that’s flown in fresh 3 times a week from Campania – this is the only type of Buffalo mozzarella that can bear the “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” trademark.
It’s a miserable Saturday night and Sleeping Beauty and I have scored the last two seats outside, near the heater but only half sheltered if it starts to rain again. These are red wine drinking conditions – St Maur Lot 41, 2010 Pinot Noir ($15/48).
The menu is chalked on the wall inside. Buffalo burrata or mozzarella comes in 100 gram ($15) or 125 gram ($17) portion sizes and is served with your choice of two sides like; Chilli grilled broccolini, Balsamic baby carrots, Braised lentils and peppers, Honey roasted fennel and Potato croquettes. We ask to be suprised and with ours arrives some marinated capsicum and pumpkin with barley, bread and salumi paste.
The mozzarella is the vision of my cheesey dreams – a beautiful round ball of glossy white and I’m anticipating the pale liquid centre that’s about to come oozing with the piercing of my knife. Alas, there’s not as much of a whey slaughter as I’d hope but it’s delicious, fresh and creamy. I’m envious of the prosciutto and salumi the diners next to us are eating – it comes in 30, 60 or 90 gram servings, sliced wafer thin and served simply on butchers paper.
If I’m being honest, there’s really only one reason that I’m braving the cold and wet tonight, and Sleeping Beauty agrees – Pasta. So when ‘Magic’ Mike describes the Buffalo ricotta gnocchi ($15) and Spaghetti cacio e pepe ($18); Spaghetti served simply with olive oil and pepper that comes out in a giant wheel of pecorino cheese – the cheese is then chipped away into the pasta before ending up on your plate. Dinner and a show? We don’t need to hear anymore of the menu – sold.
The Spaghetti comes out first, but there’s no giant wheel of cheese…
Naturally we’re a little disappointed. Even the couple next to us notice its absence (they’re regulars). When asked, we’re told the wheel has in fact got a hole in the bottom of it – they bring it out as proof. So as not to risk our dinner ending up on the floor, the chunks of pecorino are already tossed through our al dente pasta. A little disappointed about the performance but not about the dish – so simple and so good. This is actually the meal I cook for myself at home when I’m in need of something starchy and comforting (mine doesn’t come in a wheel of cheese either…).
The gnocchi is what I’m really excited about. Soft cheesy pillows that melt in my mouth and a tomato sauce that’s packed with flavour.
There’s a small selection of sweets on offer including after-dinner cheese, more cheese in the form of Tiramisu and 3 scoops of Gelato (all $10). But it’s too cold for ice cream and Sleeping Beauty isn’t fond of Tiramisu. Boo.
Mike sits down with us we prepare to head off and we talk more about cheese – you can tell they really love the stuff. The place has been packed ever since the doors opened less than a month ago and with 3 things always at the forefront of their minds – Good food, good service and good prices – it’s bound to stay that way.
Buffalo Dining Club – 116 Surrey Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010 – 02 9332 4052