Culina Et Vinum is having a shot at the symbiotic relationship between the food from the kitchen, and the wine served in the glass. It’s a balancing act that co-owners Naomi Lowry and Abhi Mahadevan have had 10 years to talk about.
The friends have extensive experience in their dedicated field, with Naomi, the chef, holding a range of tenures at both local and international fine dining venues, and Abhi, the sommelier, having a lifelong involvement in the industry. The pair logically thought that the natural progression was to create their own experience, yin and yang, the chef and the sommelier, Culina Et Vinum.
Naomi’s menu is a look across Mediterranean Europe, with flecks of British and French technique peppered amongst the mix. The menu pushes seasonality, with a feeling of homeliness. It’s about an ease of refined, bistro like food. The fit-out echoes this, with its warm greens and dark timber tables. It’s comfortable, but elevated. The wine that is selected by Abhi is both a combination of modern and old world, complimenting Naomi’s approach to modern representations using classic technique.
Culina Et Vinum’s style of modern Mediterranean reminds me of all the time I’ve spent salivating at Rick Stein’s odyssey through the med, picking out moments from Turkey, through to the southern tip of Italy. This can be seen throughout the tight seasonal menu.
The Quail was cooked as if it was charcoal grilled, with a sumac and garlic sauce that reminded me of an elevated version of a classic charcoal chicken. Served on a bed of cracked wheat, the sauce, grain and quail combined nicely with a statement amount of pomegranate for a tasty, rounded opening meal.
The Kingfish Carpaccio is an obvious southern Italian nod, with fragrant mandarin perfuming the dish. It’s clean, refreshing, as if you dived off a boat in Sicilian waters, arising to your own perfume commercial. This all went well with my sauvignon blanc. Textural elements like the cucumber twirls and beetroot discs helped the dish a long and brought it all together neatly.
For main meals we ordered the Parsley Spaghetti, which with clams, tomatoes garlic and white wine, attempted to modernise the classic Spaghetti Alla Vongole by putting the parsley in the spaghetti. I’m a bit of a purist, so whilst the choice to put the parsley in the spaghetti was not my favourite, I have a soft spot for clams in a wine sauce.
The show-stopper was the Lamb Tomahawks. A huge bistro-like serving caught me off guard, The pleasant surprise was matched by the way that the in house dry aged lamb was expertly cooked, The dish was paired with a cannellini bean hummus, fried sprouts and anchovy dressing, which really added a unique salty element to the dish. A clear stand out dish.
For dessert, there was only ever really one option, The Chocolate Cigar. And just like its tobacco filled counterpart, I was expecting a heavy, rich, overly decadent dessert. It delivered. The cigar was filled with a ganache, a top a bed of coffee crumb and torched mushroom clouds of smoke. It is all a bit of fun at a relaxing local haunt.
Culina Et Vinum
Shop 1/19-23 Elizabeth Bay Rd, Elizabeth Bay NSW 2011
Tues –Fri: 12 till late
Saturday and Sunday from 8am till late.