If you’re after a new neighbourhood gem in the Eastern Suburbs, look no further than Culina et Vinum. This unassuming little 70 seater, tucked away on Elizabeth Bay road behind the Gazebo building has a great local feel to it, and would be as good for a group catch up, as it is for a quiet romantic dinner with the better half.
The vivacious (ex Biota) head chef Naomi Lowry’s personality is clearly etched into the creativeness and flavour of her dishes, which I felt were a little understated in their descriptions on the menu; making for a great surprise when they arrived at the table.
Culina’s decadent wine list was put together by Abhi Mahadevan, the son of famous Abhi’s and Aki’s chef Kumar Mahadevan. He’s done a brilliant job of selecting an eclectic range of local and international wines, focussing mostly on new and old-world Aussie, French and Italian producers. There’s also an unusual number available by the glass for a restaurant of this size. The cocktail list doesn’t stray too far from time-tested classics, however, does have a few interesting inclusions such as the ‘Ouzo Amor’ (ouzo, cranberry juice, mint, flamed lemon peel) or the ‘Suci’ (Spiced rum, Chambord, red wine, lime juice, 5 berries jam).

Naomi and Abhi have been friends for over 10 years. Naomi’s extensive experience across a range of local and international fine dining venues and gastropubs combined with Abhi’s sommelier expertise and lifelong involvement in the industry, led to a natural collaboration. Both had always dreamt of opening their own venue, and when the stars aligned they created Culina Et Vinum.

We tried the Quail, which hinted at Naomi’s experience at Biota, expertly cooked, seasoned perfectly and served with pomegranate, mint and cracked wheat, then finished with sumac yoghurt. The flavours combined nicely, which meant the quail flew off the plate!

Next up was the Kingfish Carpaccio (with carrot puree, pickled beetroot, zucchini), which was a nicely presented, bright dish, showing off the vibrant and fresh seasonal ingredients.

For our main, the better half ordered the Spanner crab risotto, while I opted for one of their beautiful pieces of house dry-aged beef. The grilled rib eye, pre-cut for lazy people like myself, and cooked medium rare with a simple seasoning of salt. It was also paired with baked kipfler potatoes that you would have only gotten at your Nan’s house on a Sunday lunch. Delicious.

The menu changes every few months, ensuring that ingredients are always local, sustainable and seasonal, incorporating lots of dry-aged meat, fish and pasta. Comfort food with a thoroughly refined edge – think sublime not stodgy.

Culina is open 6 days a week, Tuesday -Friday from 12noon till late and Saturday and Sunday from 8am till late.

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Aaron Morris

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