The Sydney lockout laws may have stifled the nightclub industry around Kings Cross but some of the area’s cafes and restaurants are thriving. One such example, located just footsteps away from the renowned El-Alamein Memorial Fountain, is Elizabeth Bay’s Culina Et Vinum. Headed by chef Naomi Lowry, this modern European eatery offers a sophisticated take on the neighbourhood wine bar and restaurant.
On our recent trip to Culina Et Vinum (latin for Kitchen and Wine), we found that it combined two of humanity’s oldest joys to marvellous effect. Comforting yet excellent food enjoyed with beautiful wine, what more could you ask for? Each element of the European style menu and extensive wine list combine to create a truly remarkable experience. The menu apparently changes every few months, ensuring that ingredients are always local, sustainable and seasonal, incorporating lots of dry-aged meat, fish and pasta.
It’s clear the venue have gone for quality rather than quantity on the menu so you won’t be drowning in pages of options. Entrées include Treccia (braided mozzarella) with oxheart tomato and olive caramel, Baked Figs stuffed with Holy Goat “La Luna” goat cheese and pecan praline, and Grilled Quail with cracked wheat, orange, herbs, and pomegranate dressing with sumac yoghurt.
We opted to start with the Octopus Carpaccio with pickled eschalot dressing and baby leaves. Octopus can often be chewy and tough on the teeth but this one was so beautifully sliced – it was just so thin and light in the mouth. Healthy, easily digested, and not too taxing on the belly.
We also thought we’d give the Hawkesbury River School Prawns a try. Almost sardine-like, these were small enough for us to devour the entire thing from head to tail. Served with preserved citrus mayonnaise and rosemary, these crispy little suckers were absolutely delicious on their own without the need for any additional flavouring. The perfect appetizer.
When it came time for the mains, we were tempted by some of the meatier options including the Roast Spatchcock, Market Fish, Pork Belly and Lamb Tomahawks but decided on a pasta-themed night starting with the Parsley Spaghetti. Served with clams, tomato, white wine and garlic to create a colourful dish, it was truly a visual feast which also happened to take our taste buds for a ride.
Not as visually impressive but equally as tasty was the Carnaroli Risotto with spanner crab, herbs and prawn dust. It’s often the simple dishes that work best and this definitely applies here. Inspired by her greatest influence and first teacher (her grandmother), chef Naomi dishes up food cooked just how Grandma used to cook but modernised for a commercial setting.
If you’re thinking of visiting, make sure to stay for the dessert. We sampled the Chocolate Cigar and gave it a massive thumbs-up. With coffee crumbs and torched lemon marshmallow, it was so creative that we almost didn’t want to touch the plate so we could enjoy the art of it all a little longer. But rest assured, we demolished the cigar and licked the plate clean.
We found Culina Et Vinum to be cosy and welcoming, yet modern and sophisticated. Offering a delicious food menu, a comprehensive selection of wines, and a warm inviting atmosphere, we highly recommend checking it out.
Culina Et Vinum
Shop 1, 19-23 Elizabeth Bay Rd, Elizabeth Bay
Open Tues-Fri (12noon till late) & Sat/Sun (8am till late)