116 Surrey St
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
I’ve said it before, and although it feels a little bit wrong, I’ll say it again – one good thing about Covid is that restaurants that didn’t used to take bookings have now started to do so. Although I’m not unfamiliar with waiting in line for a spot at a good restaurant, it’s definitely nicer to be able to have a table guaranteed before you get there.
And if I were to be entirely honest, that reluctance to spend potentially hours in line (plus how much of a pain Sydney is to get around, but that’s a whole other story) is one of the reasons why I’ve yet to visit Buffalo Dining Club. Because on paper, it is everything I love – simple, high-quality share plates, served in a relaxed wine bar setting.
Buffalo Dining Club is unashamedly European, and takes me right back to the wine bars I loved so much back in Melbourne. The entire restaurant is charmingly rustic, with plenty of small knickknacks that makes it feel particularly homely and intimate. The downstairs section is a little cramped and dim on an overcast day, but there’s an absolutely charming mezzanine upstairs that lets in all the glorious afternoon light from its lofty arched window.
Seeing as we are at a wine bar with cheese in the name, it seems wrong to not order the Burrata ($15), though frankly I didn’t need much encouragement. Now, this may sound like an exaggeration, but I mean it when I say it’s the best thing I’ve eaten for a while. There’s just no getting around the fact that cheese with the taste and texture of cream, spread over good sourdough with a pinch of sea salt and a dash of good olive oil, is bloody delicious.
But if you want to take things up another notch, order the Salumi ($16) to go with your cheese. Sliced fresh to order, the sausage was undeniably top-shelf. And with two different types on the plate, you’re covered regardless of whether you like your salami full-bodied and meaty, or tangy and spicy.
A plate of Roasted Zucchini ($14) was another exercise in delightful simplicity, where every single ingredient pulled its weight. The juicy segments of thickly sliced zucchini were tossed through with toasted almonds and slivers of fresh chilli, and finished with a healthy splash of vinegar to make a vegetable dish anyone could love. This was great for cutting through the richness of the meat and cheese, though if I were being honest, I would’ve been delighted to have a meal of nothing but burrata.
“C’mon, get your camera out! You know you want to!” Enthused our waiter as he transported the coveted cheese wheel over to our table. And how could I turn down an invitation that earnest?
Buffalo Dining Club was the first restaurant to bring the Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe ($25), tossed in a wheel of pecorino at the table for maximum dramatic effect, to Sydney. But this isn’t just some gimmick; in fact, this is the best pasta I’ve had since the legendary Tipo00. The twirl of fresh spaghetti (perfectly al dente, of course) in the cheese wheel emulsifies the cooking liquid into a lusciously rich coating, its flavour augmented by little nuggets of salty parmesan the server expertly chips off with the tongs as he goes. Seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper, this is a champion of one of the simplest and most unadulterated pleasures in life – good carbs with good cheese.
Is there really another way to finish off a good Italian meal that isn’t Tiramisu ($12)? Just like everything else, this was done well, and done effortlessly. The alternating layers of thick mascarpone and ladyfingers drenched in dark, rich espresso were cool, light, and creamy, capping the meal off neatly even as it left you wanting more.
I couldn’t be happier with my experience at Buffalo Dining Club. The food was the best of its kind, but it was the service that won me over so completely. I’ve found that truly warm and engaging service is not always the easiest to come by in Sydney, and it’s often more so the case when it’s at an old-fashioned Italian Restaurant. But not only was the service at Buffalo entirely on-point from everyone we interacted with, our waiter definitely went the extra mile to engage us and to make the experience as lovely as possible, and all without making it seem like any kind of special effort – it’s just who they are.
Rating: 16/20 – smitten.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.