From within the ever-growing galaxy of Sydney food culture, it is a rather cumbersome task to pick the brightest star when eateries, big and small, are in a state of never-ending dynamism to outshine each other. What pushes the perplexity of the situation to exponential heights is the growing demand for pocket-friendly health food, prompt and pleasing service and a laid-back ambience. So even a teensy-weensy star which strikes a balance between all three is sure to get its shine noticed irrespective of its position in the galaxy. Such a wee warmth oozing little place is Culture Bean.
The humble-looking cafe with a wood finish interior and floral makeup stands at the very tip of a residential triangle in Kogarah, just 550mts from the train station on the perimeter of the town centre.
Food: The menu is as precise as the bijou cafe. Though you are shown to your table and waited upon, the orders have to be placed at the counter. Once we returned to our table with a number bearing spatula, the drinks swiftly followed. Halfway through my watermelon and orange juice, and my husband's Vanilla Berry Protein still sitting idle on the side while he sipped his mocha, our fleet-footed waitress served the first dish: Shakshuka. And as we both hurried through the Fig, Nut & Grain(FNG) Bar which had been served along with the drinks, to make space on the table for the second dish, it promptly made its appearance.
The freshly squeezed mixed fruit juice was light and rehydrating while the smoothie was silky and looked and smelled delicious. The smoothie was a blend of banana, blueberries, strawberries, vanilla protein and a sprinkle of chia seeds enriched with a yoghurt and almond milk base. On a warmer note, the mocha got a lip-smacking approval from my husband.
And that FNG gluten-free bar was a cornucopia of nuts and grains. It undoubtedly makes for a quick shot of energy.
All done and drank, we zeroed in on our main course. The Shakshuka, part baked Spanish eggs and part chorizo boosted tomato puree with spinach, marinated goats feta, pomegranate served with toasted bread and a dash of butter made for a happy wholesome lunch. Encompassed in one dish, the mildness of egg, the tang of tomato and the high notes of chorizo struck a pleasant equilibrium. Our side dish of seared chicken thus stayed untouched until afterwards when I munched on it with my sandwich.
The second dish, Poached Chicken (the sandwich section of the story) was a light and delightful treat. More of a breakfast than a lunch option, it had seared chicken (a replacement I got for poached ones), kale, a slather of pesto, avocado, caramelized onion and ribbon cucumber sandwiched between crispy gluten-free bread topped by cherry tomatoes. Though a simple sandwich, I loved the multi-coloured artistry that went into the presentation and the Italian flavour brought into it by the pesto. The chicken had been rendered appropriate without searing the succulence out of it.
And the verbenas were smart thinking. That splash of vibrancy unfailingly brought smiles to our lips.
The Verdict: Culture Bean might not have the extravagance of the city side heartthrobs but it has the spirit of a true crowd pleaser. Puny as it is, the cafe makes up for the lack of space by going big on a neat ambience and health-conscious menu. Bold in colours and taste speaking volubly, the shine of this little star is here to stay and get brighter by the day.
N.B.: 2 hours street side parking is available along the adjacent roads to the cafe.