Kyriakou Matsi 20, Agioi Omologites, 22676707, LEFKOSIA (NICOSIA)
Food: [rating:4] 4/5
Service: [rating:3] 3/5
Ambiance: [rating:4] 4/5
This modern Spanish wine bar/restaurant has had mixed reviews in terms of food and service from other people. However, I for one find it quite consistent, particular and a place whose “identity” is quite clear. If you ignore the plastic covers around its terrace and keep your eyes on the inside space, Vino Cultura is one of the most elegant, modern, hip and happening bar/restaurants in Nicosia with a very unique menu, that I believe can be appropriate for mostly any occasion.
There are three aspects of its set-up that to my mind make all the difference: (1) the long bar in the centre of the rectangular inside space, (2) the high tables for dining the stools for which are quite comfortable and which enhance the bar’s atmosphere and lastly (3) the fact that it is not the a massive space and therefore does not look like a hotel lobby which is a look that Cypriot restaurateurs seem to love. The wine bar tag given to Vino Cultura is obvious immediately from the wine cellar across the entrance. The wine cellar is offered for multiple uses such as for dining (private or not) where one can enjoy their dinner while surrounded by wine bottles coming from all over the world. Vino Cultura, as only a handful of places in Nicosia, simply gets it!
Now, the food: it could be considered as Spanish (especially since the word “tapas” is used to describe the small dishes), but it is actually international with a Spanish touch. The menu changes often (which may be one of the reasons why it has been described as volatile in terms of content and quality), but if we forget the first few months last year when the kitchen was still trying to find its feet I haven’t had a bad experience yet. It consists of salads, cold and hot tapas, as well as of a wide selection of meat and fish dishes. The rich charcuterie and cheese options are of course, present and worth trying.
The “anari” cheese and dates salad looked inviting. Despite that the ingredients were fresh and clearly of the best quality, taste-wise I found it less interesting than what I had in mind after reading on the menu that it had a “cointreau, raspberry and vanilla champagne dressing”. The spinach and goats cheese salad was better. I appreciated the fact that neither of the salads were packed with balsamic glaze, something which is observed more often than not in a lot of restaurants.
The highlights of our meal were almost all of our tapas dishes! The Black Angus beef with chilli con carne that was in fact (small pitta crisps with chilli con carne and a touch of corn cream on top) were savoury and rich but the fact that it was served in small portions of mini crisps made the dish lighter. The “spetzofai”, a traditional Greek sausage dish that was recommended to us by the waiter was another highlight, served with olives and red peppers. It was slightly spicy and the flavours were quite strong which made it perfect for sharing.
I would think it is hard to make a salmon fillet interesting (and to be honest I would have never ordered it if it had not been requested by my proud Cypriot friend) but the sour with a touch sweet crust around the tender salmon fillet made a very flavoursome dish. The tender and tasty Black Angus steak is a classic, which never disappoints. We also ordered the chicken burgers which were recommended to us. Despite that it was a bit too “bready” the aromatic chicken fillet inside the bap was very good.
What came as a surprise in terms of both looks and taste was the stuffed calamari with a “pourgouri”, cashew nuts and raisins filling. It was a dish I never would have expected to enjoy, as the stuffed calamari in my opinion is too much of a cliché. The fact that the calamari was the “baby” type and that it had a sweet yet salty filling made the taste nothing but common. Finally the mushroom dish with 5 different types of mushrooms with tarragon sauce although a bit too sweet for my taste, found my proud Cypriot friends fighting over it so I guess it was worth ordering!
Describing our dinner feels like we ate like there’s no tomorrow, but in fact the dishes were rather small therefore making it possible to order as many as 3-4 dishes each. We weren’t even full enough to skip dessert. We were actually warned that the attention that was given to the rest of the menu was not proportional to that given to the desserts. I agreed that the chocolate mousse and the biscuit mousse weren’t as memorable, but they definitely weren’t bad. A selection of petit fours to finish off and clean the palette after such a meal was very much appreciated.
To summarise, I would describe our Vino Cultura experience as: complete. Our Spanish Toro wine might have cost us 45€ per bottle but that alone is worth returning for. The creative and unique selection of dishes as well as their execution is not something we see often in our small island. The elegant, modern and “appropriate” space as I would call it (especially if you sit inside), adds significantly to a pleasant meal, and the price of 45€ per head might not be cheap, but for such a meal I found it to be good value for money.