Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, tries to fend off cheese fatigue at a Sydney mozzarella bar.
If given a choice, I never know where to sit in a restaurant. Is it perched up at the bar straddling a stool where my feet don't touch 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, 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. 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 as I'm driving (yes, I'm still on my P-plates) and we ask about food. They explain that people usually 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.
Our mains are up next. We have a choice of garlic and herb spaghetti with reggiano served out of the cheese wheel or ricotta gnocchi served with browned butter. It's hard to decide because burnt butter is irresistible — 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 and pine nuts. The flavour is bold and the soft little pillows are moreish. Adding a little of the homemade chilli sauce provided adds another dimension to the dish.
The spaghetti is served to us from the giant buffalo pecorino wheel. Throughout the night, the very much in-demand wheel is taken from table to table. 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.
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 for some crispy crumbs on top, which I think is a great idea. And try as we might, we can't finish it. I go for seconds of the gnocchi, which I preferred. 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? Perish the thought!
Read the rest of the post here.