When Cam Birt and Stephanie Canfell, partners in Brisbane’s standard-setting Bowery bar, decided to open a dégustation-only restaurant in an old bank building one storey above street level in the still-edgy Fortitude Valley, Ryan Squires topped their chef shopping list.
Queensland-bred Squires had made a splash a few years earlier, returning from stints at The French Laundry in California and Per Se in Manhattan to work at Brisbane CBD fine-diner Urbane. His cutting-edge cooking fired the imagination and attracted nationwide attention. Now, with the launch of The Buffalo Club, his exquisite offerings have brought the Sunshine State’s dining to a new level. His inspired, exciting and often novel dishes can be complex but remain well conceived and presented with restraint and finesse.
On your plate you might find slow-cooked Darling Downs calotte de boeuf, moonfish fresh from the trawler, or popcorn sprouts grown precisely to Squires’ specifications. You’re never quite sure, even after reading the menu, what will appear next. “Foie – marshmallow, cello, tamari, almond”, for example, translates to a piece of timber dotted with dabs of toasty-topped marshmallow and limoncello “jam” surrounding a perfect tranche of foie gras, alongside a small hillock of tamari-enriched ground almonds. It might sound a little precious, especially in the wording, but put that down to young man’s folly – once you pick up the fork, it all works beautifully. The deeply savoury foie is given depth by the nuttiness of the almonds, the whole lightened by the sweetness of the semi-melted marshmallow and the freshness and zing of the “cello” curd.
The restaurant’s slim-line knives resemble shiny scalpels; not something you necessarily see every day in a restaurant, but here the association is an apt one. There’s something almost surgically precise about Squires’ best dishes, something meticulous and intelligent in their construction. They present stimulating and unusual combinations of thoughtfully sourced, often local produce, carefully plated, with attention given to flavour, texture and scents as well as eye-appeal.
Your 15-course tour de force could start with an amuse of goat’s cheese and thyme-flavoured fairy floss and be followed by a palette of “snacks” – cross-hatched paper-thin “beef jerky”, onion dust, pita puffs, Kennebec chips and more. Be prepared to go on the journey. Attention to detail will be evident throughout and with perfectionist Squires directing proceedings at the Buffalo Club pass, you’ll be well ahead of the rest of the herd.
The Buffalo Club, Level 1, 234 Wickham St, Fortitude Valley, Qld, (07) 3216 1323
WORDS FIONA DONNELLY PHOTOGRAPHY AJ MOLLER
This article is from the September 2009 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.