Frank Camorra’s original MoVida may now be the eldest child of 4 MoVida siblings, but for us, it’s still the definitive place for refined Spanish food, brimming with intense flavours and thrilling textures.
Location: 1 Hosier Ln, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 9663 3038
How lucky are we?
Only a few weeks after enjoying a divine meal at MoVida Next Door, here we are, just up the cobbles of Hardware Lane at big sis establishment, MoVida and settling in for another fabulous meal.
It’s been far too long since we last staggered in from the photogenic streetscape outside and into the warm embrace of this Melbourne institution.
Now 20 years old, but showing no signs of ageing, MoVida Bar De Tapas Y Vino remains the benchmark for relaxed, yet polished Spanish fare. Catalan-born Frank Camorra and his irresistible take on tapas and more are as intrinsic a part of the Melbourne food scene as Brunetti’s is for Italian cakes and Tiba’s Restaurant is for authentic Lebanese food.
At MoVida, there’s always something new and interesting to try on the menu. But thankfully, that amazing slither of Anchovy and Smoked Tomato Sorbet is a constant. After all, if it ever disappeared from the menu, we wouldn’t be the only ones to riot along Flinders Street!
Continue up Hardware Lane and you’ll find Tres a Cinque and it’s vibrant Mexican fare. Click here for more on this venue and other of the Best Mexican Restaurants in Melbourne
Stumble in off the street, present yourself at the dinky front desk, and allow yourself to be absorbed into the ambience of an old school Spanish restaurant.
Whilst the eatery itself is actually deceptively small, the high ceilings and clever lighting give the dining room depth.
To the right, there’s a glowing bar, its heavy wooden shutters bolted open against the ceiling. Along the far side, there’s the pass and the luminous activity of an extremely busy kitchen. Hemming the other end of the dining space is a bank of windows giving customers a glimpse of the noise and colour of Hardware Lane.
The floors are warm, terracotta brick and the wood tables and chairs evoke the furniture of Barcelona tapas bars.
MoVida isn’t glossy and flashy. It’s far too sophisticated and confident in its own identity for that. It exudes charisma in a way that few other restaurants do.
Looking for a drink with a view? See our piece on the Best Rooftop Bars in Melbourne
The menu is split into 3 sections – Aperitivos, Tapas & Raciones (Dessert is separate) – with smaller plates sold in individual portions and the larger made for sharing.
The result, is food that is ideal for a convivial gathering with good friends or dearest family.
At MoVida, the Ostra – Freshly Shucked Oysters ($6ea/$32 half doz/$60 doz – are always plump and brine-kissed. The Jamon Iberico ($55) – Aged 36 Months and served with Pan Catalan – is everything you’d expect from this most-prized of Spanish treats. The petals of flesh, porky, salty, sweet and melt in the mouth leaving a lingering coating of blissful fat.
Feel like sprucing up your tableware with some Tapas Dishes? Click here for designs to suit all budgets.
However, this time, we skip both, and opt for the Mejillones ($28). This is an unusual 2 part appetiser. Pickled Spring Bay Mussels and a Chickpea Escabeche wrapped in a fine disc of Kohlrabi and doused in Garlic Emulsion. It comes with seasoned Potato Chips on the side. Our truly charming waiter advises popping a Mussel parcel on a Chip and going for it.
The result is an explosion of both flavours and textures. We make a note to look out for it next time.
Understandably, we’re all in on the Anchoa ($6.5 ea). This legendary dish heroes a Hand-Filleted Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy on the finest of Sourdough Croutons with a Smoked Tomato Sorbet. If you’ve never tried it, get yourself down to MoVida and camp outside their door until they give you one. It’s honestly, one of the tastiest morsels that will ever pass your lips.
After that, we go home.
Again, whatever the Croqueta is on the line-up at any of the Movida restaurants, order it. This time around, it’s a Zucchini & Queso Manchego Croquette & Pickled Zuuchini ($6 ea).
It’s a sublime, wee bite. A crunchy golden bomb of gooey, cheesy lusciousness. The petals of cured Zucchini lying across each Croquette, firm yet buttery and adding just the right amount of acidity.
From there, we sample the Tartar ($9 ea). One of our party is unsure about the appeal of raw – in this case Galician – Beef, but we convince her to give it a go and she’s mighty glad she does.
At MoVida Original, the Tartar is given pep by Pickled Turnip. An Almond and Horseradish Cracker is a smart way to convey the heat of ‘Radish, add some snap and also provide an easy way to get the portion from the plate to your face.
It’s a punch in the mouth in the best possible sense.
There’s a Daily Special that gets a unanimous vote. And it’s as pretty as it is flavoursome.
Delicate fillets of Fish, threaded onto a skewer and cooked – just enough. Beyond that, I don’t recall – my mind a swirl of delicate flavours. I take a photo for this review and start eating – totally forgetting to ask what else is on the plate. I know there are pops of Caviar and fronds of Dill, but beyond that, all I know is that we all wolf it down and then try to remember the details.
Suffice to say, it’s amazing.
For top quality European fare in a stunning modern restaurant setting, see our review of Society Restaurant – Lillian Brasserie
Confession time. We want all of the Raciones, but simply don’t have the stomach space.
In the end, the pull of the Carrillera De Buey ($38) proves too strong to ignore. An incredibly fragrant hunk of Pedro Ximenez Braised Beef Cheek on Cauliflower Puree, the boozy notes of the grapes are heady. It’s a dark, decadent, indulgent dish. The meat is so soft and gelatinous, you could almost suck it up through a straw.
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Once more, it’s utterly divine.
Lastly, the Paella ($60) sings to us. Firstly, because a couple of us have had a MoVida Paella previously and know that the kitchen really know their stuff. Secondly, this one features Gippsland Rabbit, Periwinkle, Pochas Beans, Saffron & Valencian Style Bomba Rice. Rabbit and Winkles? Now that’s a combination and a half.
What a beauty. Sticky, perfumed, studded with nutty Beans and oozing an umami-deep sauce, this is well worth the wait for cooking time.
Of course, they exist, but one this occasion, we are too full to participate.
Previously, Eatability has dunked Churros in gloriously fudgy Chocolate Sauce and revelled in the satiny allure of Flan – Spanish Creme Caramel.
The bar at MoVida is well-stocked, to say the least.
Sherry, Madeira and Spanish Vermouths all have their place on the Drinks List.
We love that the Cocktail List opens with the Sangria De La Casa – and when it’s as good as this one, so it should.
Wines comes by the Glass, Half Bottle (why don’t more place do this?) and Full Bottle. Not only is Spain heavily represented, but individual grape producing regions of the country get to shine.
Unless you know what you’re looking for, we recommend chatting to the ever knowledgeable staff. This Wine list is large and exhaustive.
If you’re looking for a sophisticated spot to grab a cocktail before dining at MoVida, see our review of Eau De Vie Melbourne
MoVida (the Original) is adored by Melburnians for obvious reasons. And if you’re ever fortunate enough to dine there, you’ll see immediately what those reason are: an iconic location, a unique ambience, divine service and an enviable menu of modern-day classics and seasonal winners.
We definitely won’t be leaving it so long again until our next visit.