A little slice of Barcelona, bang in the centre of Melbourne, MoVida Next Door has a unique allure. Few places in Melbourne blend exemplary Spanish food with a genuine tapas bar vibe. To do it in such a tremendous location is the icing on the cake.
Location: 164 Flinders St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 9663 3038
Is it sacrilege to say that I prefer MoVida Next Door to the original MoVida?
At Next Door, the menu is pared down to the highlights of the restaurant’s lauded big sister establishment. Despite this, the tiny kitchen is still skilled enough to have a wee handful of Specials rotating regularly on the chalkboard over the bustling bar.
The atmosphere is ace. It genuinely feels like an adored corner tapas bar in Barcelona. It’s always tightly packed with happy dinners, tucking into whatever the current Croquette is and swigging ruddy glasses of Sangria.
What’s more, in a town where fine restaurants are often distinguished by the quality of their staff, the service at MoVida Next Door is faultless.
But the icing on the cake for me is the position. Looking out at Flinders Street at the front and on Hosier Lane to the side, the people watching is amongst the best in Melbourne. Plus, there is a joy in knowing that virtually anyone walking past that has ever eaten at the Spanish bar wishes they were inside dining with you.
Just up Hosier Lane on Flinders Lane lies Hazel Restaurant. Read our review of this shrine to fine produce, here.
Cosy and intimate in the best possible way.
I’ve been to MoVida Next Door on a hot summer night, and on those occasions, the tiny corner restaurant can feel cramped. But that’s not a bad thing.
The titchy, tight, nature of the establishment is definitely part of its appeal. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to pop into a bar for pintxos in San Sebastian, then the borderline claustrophobic charms of MoVida Next Door can only strike you as wonderfully authentic.
Then there is the iconic Melbourne location. This vibrant Spanish restaurant is on Flinders Street, directly opposite The Atrium and the Ian Potter Centre. However, its entrance is on colourful Hosier Lane. And if there is a more Insta-friendly laneway in this city of street art than Hosier, we’ve yet to find it.
Step through the glass door in the graffiti-strewn wall and you drop straight into the heart of the eatery. The room is that small.
For glamorous Art Deco style and amazing Cocktails, see our piece on Nick & Nora’s Melbourne
To the right, there’s a boxy bar fronting a miniscule kitchen. Customers either sit up at the bar to eat or at one of a number of tables slotted against the windows and walls. High ceilings stop the space from feeling too hemmed in, whilst Spanish posters and warm lighting add to the ambience.
For cool vibes of a different kind, see our review of Young Hearts in Windsor/Prahran
Barcelona-born Frank Camorra is a legend in the Australian food scene, for good reason.
Whether you dine at the slightly larger and swankier MoVida, MoVida Aqui (currently being renovated) or Tres a Cinco, you are in for a treat. All the dishes are tried and tested crowd-pleasers, which the respective kitchens have honed to perfection.
At MoVida Next Door, the menu reads like a greatest hits of the MoVida family’s finest work.
For a sophisticated cocktail or glass of whisky before dinner, see our review of Eau De Vie Melbourne, just around the corner.
Surely something as simple as a bowl of nuts isn’t worth getting excited about? But when they are Almendras ($7) – Marcona Salted Spanish Almonds – we allow ourselves a little cheer.
Frank Camorra makes Paella just as well as he cooks tapas. And if you’d like to make authentic Paella, you have to start with a real Paella Pan. For more Information and prices, click here
Previously, we’ve indulged in the Iberico Jamon ($45). MoVida’s Carrasco Jamon Iberico is aged 24 months and melts on the tongue, leaving a glorious oily, salty tang. However, this time we resist and dive into the Tapas.
And no wonder.
Needless to say, we open with the Anchoa ($6 ea). Surely one of the best known signature dishes in Melbourne. And when you try it, you can totally understand why. The description – Hand-filleted Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy with Smoked Tomato Sorbet on a Crouton – really doesn’t do it justice. The sliver of super savoury fish on a wafer-thin Crouton contrasts brilliantly with the refreshing, sweet, smoky Tomato Sorbet. A shower of baby Capers lift everything with their tartness.
Amongst the Specials, the Piquillo ($7.5 ea) catches our attention. These are Sweet Peppers, stuffed with Eel, crumbed and deep fried. And they are just as good as they sound.
Our utterly fabulous waiter suggests the Miguel ($8 ea), and we are glad that he does.
It’s a delicately Spiced Saffron Chicken Escabeche, shredded and laced with dressing, sandwiched between 2 crunchy Croutons.
We complete our Tapas selection with the Croqueta ($6 ea). At present, this is a crispy-coated pillow of Zucchini & Queso Manchego. Again, the devil is in the details. We bite into the Croqueta and marvel at the velvety richness of the bechamel, gooey with cheese and soft zucchini.
For Mains, knowing how skilled the Spaniards are with seafood, it’s impossible to ignore the pull of the Gambas ($38). And it’s a smart decision. The Chargrilled King Prawns, Bisque Oil and Pickled Fennel demonstrate all that is great about Spanish food. If the central ingredient is stellar, do only enough to it to make its star shine.
Their aroma as they arrive at our table is sublime. The King Prawns are flame-kissed and meaty. The accompanying Pickled Fennel is an ideal foil for their umami/sweet profile. And the oil. Once more, our waiter proves just how lucky we are in this town to have dedicated professionals manning our tables. He points out – rightly – that the oil is liquid gold. Bread is duly offered to mop it up.
Alongside the Gambas we plump for the Bistec Special ($40). What we get is a beautiful plate of black-edged, crimson-hearted Wagyu. The luscious, tender slabs of Beef lie on a bed of the smoothest Jerusalem Artichoke puree even passed through a sieve. On the side, dainty Artichoke Chips supply texture.
Now confession time. We are all starting to feel full and are worried we might miss out on Dessert. With this in mind, we opt for the Ensalada ($12) from the Verduras menu. Described as Somerset Heritage Leaves, it’s a lovely side with the Prawns.
Happily, our star waiter has our backs. He offers us a half portion of the ever-fantastic Patatas Bravas ($18) – a fail-safe combo of Crispy Fried Potatoes with Spicy Bravas Sauce & Aioli. And honestly, what was I thinking? No serious foodie should ever consider ordering beef without a potato.
Despite our earlier concerns, we manage to find room for dessert.
As we wish to share, we decide on the Churros ($14).
These pleasingly light Spanish Doughnuts come with Rich Drinking Chocolate – just as they do in Spain. Although we all claim to be stuffed, we fight over draining the cup.
Now we know that Churros are generally made in a deep fat fryer, but if you want to try making a healthier version, you’ll need an Air Fryer. This might seem like an expensive item, but did you know you can steam, roast bake and more in a modern Air Fryer? Click here for more information and prices.
Having come from cocktails elsewhere, we don’t pay as much attention to the Drinks List as we usually would.
That said, I try the MoVida Gin & Tonic (a blend devised with the Melbourne Gin Company) and it is excellent. My companions dip into the ‘Tinto’ with a very palatable Casa Castillo Monastrell Jumilla ($15/75).
Yes, I love MoVida – the original.
I also devoured my meal the last time I ate at MoVida Aqui.
And I’ve also nipped up Hosier Lane and enjoyed a lunch or 2 at Frank Camorra’s Mexican-inspired Tres A Cinco.
But really, when push comes to shove, my heart belongs to MoVida Next Door.
This gorgeous little restaurant thrums with the best kind of energy.
The food is divine. The Drinks List focuses on all that is good in Spain. And the service and atmosphere have that special magic that is so hard to replicate – though many, many place try.
I’m already looking forward to my next evening here.
Update – MoVida Aqui
After a lush new renovation, MoVida Aqui opened for bookings in early August.
And hot off the press, the team is launching Pintxos Saturdays throughout Spring.
What’s this? Well, Pintxos are a vast range of bite-sized tapas, much-loved in San Sebastian. At MoVida Aqui, the kitchen will be setting tables loaded with plates of these fabulous nibbles and patrons can help themselves to whatever they fancy.