When you fail to secure a table at a restaurant you desperately want to go that thought lingers in the back of your mind. When you finally land a table at a restaurant you’ve previously missed out on the anticipation runs high. Three years in the making, we were finally going to dine at the original MoVida and naturally we were both rather excited. We lunched at MoVida Next Door back in 2010 and held it in such high regard that we couldn’t wait to experience the flagship restaurant in all its glory.
A decade ago the doors to MoVida opened on Hosier Lane, a graffitied street of inner city Melbourne. Frank Commora and Andy McMahon’s empire has since expanded to include MoVida Next Door, MoVida Aqui, MoVida Bakery (since sold), MoVida Sydney, MoVida at the airports (Melbourne and Sydney) and Paco’s Tacos.
As we walk up Hosier Lane there is a sense of excitement about the night ahead of us. The building is covered in street art. A scooter is parked out front and the place is bustling. As you enter there is a MoVida Bar de Tapas mural tiled across the wall.
Bread and olive oil.
As is the norm bread came to start us off and was presented on a nifty little plate with a built in olive oil well. It was so perfect, wide enough to get a good solid piece of bread into rather than just a tiny corner.
We asked our waitress how much food would suit two fairly hungry diners and were told we could probably get one of each of the entire tapa menu or three tapa and two from the raciones menu and still ‘maybe’ have room from dessert. And of course we were told if we needed more food that would be no problem at all.
Croqueta – Morcilla Croqueta with Apple ($3.50 each).
Sticking to the recommended mix of tapa and raciones we ordered three tapa to start. First up was the Morcilla Croqueta, blood sausage croquettes on a dollop of apple puree. Satisfyingly crunchy on the outside the rich morcilla was the big flavour it should be and the apple paired so well offering a sour and sweet finish to a top notch croquette.
Queso – Quince Paste Cigar with Whipped Goats Milk Cheese ($4.00 each).
I’m not sure why we were intent on the quince paste cigars, whether it had been a recommendation from a friend or something we had read about, but we knew they had to be ordered. With its sweet, piquant richness quince is a perfect companion to a creamy goat’s curd, and even better still when both are inside a crispy cigar. Instantly we fell in love with these, so small in size but that is all you need because they are just bursting with flavour.
Patata Brava – Deep Fried Potato with Spicy Aioli ($3.50 each).
Lex had mentioned that the MoVida patata brava are no longer a plate of potato cubes drenched in salsa and aioli but something a little more modern. Sure enough they were more modern – they were no longer cubes but cylinders. What they lacked in volume they made up for in quality. I just loved the new version. Silky soft potato inside a deep fried outer, a perfect amount of aioli and salsa that were both wonderfully spicy. A winning combination for me.
Paté de Pato – Duck Liver Parfait with Pedro Ximenez Foam and Toasted Brioche ($15.00).
The first main to arrive was the duck liver parfait and it looked stunning. A light and wobbly cube of parfait in one corner, a fluffy cube of Pedro Ximenez jellied foam in another and two corners of super toasty brioche squares. Wowsers it looked impressive! Everything was just right with this dish. The parfait was sublime, melting away in your mouth, as indulgent as you can imagine. The PX foam jelly was super cool and just like the parfait it melted in the mouth bringing a counter to the parfait. All of that smeared over uber toasted brioche, spectacular.
Bistec Tartar de Wagyu – Spicy Steak Tartare of Raw, Grass-fed Wagyu Beef ($18.50).
I’ve said it a million times (maybe more) but beef is the best. Ever since our fantastic meal at Loam I have been obsessed with steak tartar and while Lex may not be obsessed she is definitely a fan so it was an easy choice. Differing to most of the recent trends the MoVida team pre-mixes their medley of chives, capers, cornichons, salt, pepper, olive oil and more and presents it ready to go with a lightly poached quail yolk nestled atop.
Mega thin slices of bread are fried off in oil and served as your tartar cutlery. There was so much awesome going on it is hard to know where to start. Such a clean and pure essence of beef encompassed every bite and each time you could taste all the elements working their magic yet never jostling for dominance, just sensational.
Carrillera de Buey – Slowly Braised Beef Cheek in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree ($23.50).
On a beef high we were still a little hungry (greedy :P) so we decided to take a brief breather before pulling the trigger on another dish. Any time we dine at The Carrington we get the beef cheeks so we just had to see what MoVida could do with them.
Beef cheeks slowly braised in PX are enough on their own to make my eyes light up, but adding cauliflower puree just cranks it up another notch. Buttery soft the beef cheeks fell apart as we ate them, so soft yet intense there was an incredible level of flavour throughout and the puree just really helped to stop the heavy dish becoming too much to handle. How did they stack up against those at The Carrington? They came in a close second!
Flan Con Pestiños – Crème Caramel served with Spicy Sherry Pastries ($12.00).
Not only had we eaten a tad more than recommended we were also trying to figure out what desserts to order! We still had a good portion of our wine to go so there was no rush and this moment of calm did allow us to overhear the grumblings of the table next to us commenting on how the flan was so much better than the leche fritta. That sealed the deal as they had been the two dishes we were torn between.
Pestiños are best known as a Christmas pastry from Southern Spain but these were a tad different to what I knew. Shorter and much crumblier they were kind of like a Christmas pudding but in biscuit form. The pestiños were pretty cool but the creme caramel was just out of this world. It would be one of the most impeccably cooked set custards I have ever eaten, firm and silky smooth it was just the best companion to the spiced pastries.
Pan Con Chocolate – Chocolate Bread and Olive Oil Ice Cream ($13.50).
Chocolate was on the dessert menu so it was ordered. That pretty much sums up Lex’s decision on this one (sounds a lot like my beef obsession if you ask me). Layered between two wafers of bread was a chocolate marquise, an indulgent number to say the least. The starkness of the salt countered the richness of the chocolate, all pulled together by crisp wafers and sweet, full bodied olive oil ice cream. A combination that made for a wonderful marriage of flavours.
Finally, after three years we had made it! Was it worth the wait? It certainly was. There was nothing I could really fault about it other than it taking some time to chase down anyone to refill our wine (1st world problems I know). MoVida has a great vibe, a nice hum of activity and isn’t overly loud (the music doesn’t try to dominate conversations as it seems to in many places).
Staff move about well and are well informed about specials and recommendations for dishes, their order, and wine. Above all the food is spot on, everything we ate was top notch and makes me want to head back again soon. We will be back in Melbourne in February but the problem with these sneaky weekends away is there is never enough time to go everywhere. I think this means we may need to finally go to MoVida Sydney instead.
MoVida Bar de Tapas
1 Hosier Lane
(off Flinders St)
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9663 3038
MoVida Bar de Tapas