I never know where to sit in a restaurant if given a choice. Is it perched up at the bar straddling a stool where my feet don't touch the ground and I inelegantly try and grab my handbag and camera bag from the ground? Or is it in the corner, usually darkly lit so as to be as inconspicuous as possible or conversely, and this is where most food bloggers gravitate towards, the most brightly lit area?
I've arrived 15 minutes early for my dinner with Girl Next Door at Buffalo Dining Club where they don't take any bookings and the parties are not seated until everyone arrives. Despite this, the greeting is very warm and welcoming. I can take my pick of where I'd like to wait (truth be told that anywhere near a heater is good for me on this freezing cold evening) but I decide to sit at the bar as there seems to be some cheese action happening in the kitchen.
Oh yes the cheese. We are here for the cheese.
"Tell me about your day" the man with the tattoo sleeves behind the bar says to me and I tell him about how I was dreaming of cheese the entire day. Girl Next Door arrives and we decide to stay put on the bar stools watching food and wine come and go. It's a small wine bar, mozzarella bar as well as an eatery. The most popular order appears to be the spaghetti served out of a hollowed out cheese drum. The concept of Buffalo Dining Club was created by Table for 20's Michael Fantuz and seems to be an instant hit in our fickle town.
The wine list is put down on the bar and Girl Next Door picks something out. I can't alas as I'm driving (yes I'm still on my P license) and we ask about food. They explain that people usually just let him bring out food unless there's a dietary requirement. I can't help myself and offer up a cheeky "Well I'm dairy intolerant!" and his face falls momentarily. I wink and say "I bet you have heard that joke before." We happily agree to the bring out something food policy but with a caveat from Girl Next Door. "I've been here twice already but I've never tried the pasta out of the cheese wheel" she says.
We start with a taster plate with a round of buffalo mozzarella, garlic grilled asparagus, a dab of house made nduja (a spicy Calabrian meat paste), honey roasted Dutch carrots, thinly sliced bread and breadstick curls. To the side is a serve of San Daniele prosciutto sliced before us. The combination of flavours is good and I particularly like the spicy nduja with the milky mild mozzarella and the green asparagus packs a chargrilled, garlicky punch.
Spinach & Buffalo Ricotta Gnocchi
Our mains are up next and we have a choice or garlic and herb spaghetti with reggiano served out of the cheese wheel or a ricotta gnocchi served with browned butter. It's hard to decide because burnt butter is irresistible and I'd wear it as a perfume if I could. So we order both. The gnocchi arrives first and it's a plate of spinach & buffalo ricotta gnocchi with burnt butter, sage & pine nuts. The flavour is bold and the soft little pillows are moreish-even adding a little of the home made chilli sauce provided adds another dimension to the dish.
The spaghetti is served to us from the giant buffalo pecorino wheel and throughout the night the very much in demand wheel is taken from table to table and I also overhear "Where on earth is the cheese wheel?" from one staff member during a busy period. We start on the gnocchi before before the pecorino wheel makes its anticipated appearance.
Spaghetti with garlic, cheese and herbs
They dig up some of the cheese from the wheel and add it to the spaghetti along with small clumps of herbs and garlic. It's a simple dish in the style of cucina povera. Girl Next Door adds one suggestion and that would be for some crispy crumbs on top which I think is a great idea. And try as we might we can't finish it but I go for seconds of the gnocchi which I preferred. Throughout the night we also saw little mini burgers being made and a large pot of ragu being stirred but we were both too full to make another order. Could we have cheese fatigue? Banish the thought!
Alas there's no dessert here so it's a recommendation to cross the road and take a pick from one of the many frozen yogurt or gelato outlets!
So tell me Dear Reader, where do you prefer to sit in a restaurant? At the bar, near the kitchen or a quiet corner?And if there's no dessert, do you go elsewhere for it or do you go without?
Buffalo Dining Club
116 Surrey St, Sydney NSW 2010
Tel: +61 (02) 9332 4052
Open 12pm-11pm Wednesday to Saturday