There's this thing that happens when a neighbourhood restaurant closes down after being in the business for 12 years. People mourn, they treat it as if it were someone they knew. And in 2013 when Woollahra's Buzo closed down they did so. "Can you believe it?" a friend who was a regular said mournfully. "I thought it was doing so well," they said. It was a neighbourhood restaurant of sorts but not limited to this. There was almost a magic formula that guaranteed a great night of food and atmosphere. And now, Buzo is back.
The original plan was to move Buzo to the city but those plans didn't work out. Two years have passed and in circuitous way Buzo is back, in the same place and with one of the original team Traci Trinder. "We looked long and hard and couldn’t quite find the space we wanted and had all been moving towards different things we wanted to do individually. Looking back, I always knew we closed Buzo at the wrong time, it was still very successful in Woollahra and I had considered for some time if Pinbone didn’t want to take over the lease, then maybe I would," Traci explains.
Now she is an equal partner with old friends from Macleay St. Bistro & Deli. There is a new head chef Tom Williams (ex. Tetsuya's and Bambini Trust). He is still working with the same recipes that Buzo was well loved for and will introduce his own ideas shortly (but rest assured the cabbage salad and truffle lasagne are still there). Traci says, "We have opened with many favourites on the menu, both old and new. A man was almost in tears when he saw the kidney dish from many years ago on the menu last night." The walls have changed from its former incarnation Pinbone and service is still finding its legs somewhat with a couple of staff during this busy Saturday night.
Our group of eight is large and we soon realise that with our group of inappropriate friends we quickly become that table of loud laughing revellers that haven't seen each other for months. Nick of course starts the evening off with some suggestions for Jo to explore her sapphic side and this continues to become his theme for the evening, debuting his newly created political party the Pro-Lesbian Party (or PLP). Oh Nick...
Terry, Ceri and I sip Aperol Spritzes while the last remaining members of our party arrive. They breeze in one by one although they've all come together. "Filo time!" trills Jo apologetically - not the pastry but Filipino time. Cheryl looks for a cocktail while Belinda takes a seat next to Jenny. As Belinda is good friends with Traci, she asks her to bring whatever the chef chooses but then we all have to shout out our favourites to be included. The cabbage salad, chicken wings and beef short ribs are mentioned.
These Emilia Romagna style little fried gnocchi are filled with goats cheese and topped with a folded slice of prosciutto. They're the perfect start to the meal with their crisp creaminess and saltiness.
This is perhaps Buzo's most well known dish and before then I think many didn't really look at cabbage as a star ingredient. This savoy cabbage salad has pine nuts, raisins and plenty of finely shaved pecorino cheese with a sprinkling of pangrattato on top. It's fresh, crunchy and rich and deserves all the praise that it gets.
I adore stracchino cheese, that soft, mild flavoured cow's milk cheese. Here it is served with crisp, grilled asparagus.
Cheryl's favourite is the chicken wings and it's a good size entree with turned out drumettes served with chilli, garlic, fennel pollen and aged balsamico. They're juicy little morsels just made for eating with hands.
Ahhh the truffle lasagne...although it isn't photogenic, this comforting, creamy lasagna with a melding of mushrooms, bechamel and silky pasta is so delicious that it has Jenny licking the plate which only serves to rev Nick up even more. "Did you pop a Viagra before you came out?" I have to ask him. "I don't need Viagra!" says an outraged Nick.
The Sicilian sliced leg of lamb is roasted with a crumb of pangrattato, rosemary and pecorino. It comes out with a plate of buttered green beans. The lamb comes with a gorgeous sauce that has us looking for bread or potatoes to mop it up with.
The pappardelle with shredded duck leg, tomato, garlic, parsley and chilli has a satisfying kick of chilli to it which is new to the dish. It's a touch that we all love.
"Do you take photos of potatoes?" Nick asks. "Sure, what if they're the best potatoes ever?" I answer. And these beauties with rosemary are gorgeous crispy. Terry is so enamoured of them that he keeps coming back to them. It gets to a point where everyone is spearing another potato at the same time saying "Oh no, all these carbs!" but sometimes a roast potato does that to you. Often in fact for me.
The beef short ribs are one of those dishes that you make extra room in your stomach for. They're sticky and gorgeous and I remember Buzo's original ones that started off a love affair within me for this cut of beef. Here's they're sticky sweet and savoury with shallots. Previously they were served in a pool of utterly moreish sauce. Here they come with parsley and lemon and are similarly delectable.
This evening I decided one thing: that I was going to have a sgroppino every night of my life. It's a Venetian whipped lemon gelato and prosecco cocktail and it is possibly the best thing ever. Everyone's eyes light up when they sip these.
There were three torta di Verona's for our table of eight and that was a good thing because this gorgeous pandoro dessert softened with mascarpone, blueberry and almonds is like an Italian trifle, strong in Amaretto and crunchy with flaked almonds against the creamy mascarpone. Heaven.
The warm baked chocolate is served in a ramekin and topped with raspberries with a vanilla gelato that gives the warm, rich chocolate a nice cooling effect and a balance from the intensity of the dark chocolate.
We love the rough puff pastry with the house made organic strawberry jam crostata which is a nice change from the Italian shortbread pastry or the pasta frolla that we've had it with. It comes with a tiny scoop of vanilla gelato on top and is gorgeously buttery.
It's almost midnight and some of us are getting tired. Belinda hands Jenny the bill to split while she props up her head on one hand, elbow on the table, closing her eyes. Perhaps she was dreaming of the view of Tuscany that is in the window.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you ever that table? Do you miss restaurants when they close down? And are you a fan of cabbage as a star ingredient?
This meal was independently paid for.
3 Jersey Rd, Woollahra NSW 2025
(02) 9328 1600
Open 7 nights a week and all day weekends