Impromptu is what I would call this adventure. There were more booking changes and phone calls to and from the restaurant than I’d ever experienced before. A VERY late attempt at booking on a Saturday night only a day ahead may have been the catalyst but the MoVida team took it in their stride and made every effort to accommodate us well.
Our booking was for 5:00pm and we needed to be out by 8:30pm which was plenty of time. Since I had been out on the town somewhat earlier all the way down in The Rocks I ended up being the last to arrive, with Lex who was waiting for me, yet we were still all in well ahead of time. Hurrah.
Bread and olive oil (Complimentary).
With a group of six ordering was quite varied yet fluid, each of the tapa could be made to suit the number of people ordering which was perfect as not everyone wanted each tapa (and some of us wanted them all). Arriving ahead of any tapa was the bread, served on the same cool dishes as MoVida Melbourne but with a tad more bread to accommodate our group size. It was great to soak up all that oil with some seriously good white bread.
Anchoa – Artisan Cantabrian Anchovy with Smoked Tomato Sorbet ($4.80 each).
Having such a diverse group it was amazing to be able to order everything you wanted without spoiling it for others or having food wasted. That’s what I love about individually portioned tapa – especially when it comes to anchovies as they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. I have come to love them. Something about the massive bold flavours offered up by anchovies appeals to me.
Take a big ingredient like anchovies, pair it with some baby capers, an immaculate smoked tomato sorbet and serve it all on an insanely crispy bread slice and you are in for something quite epic. If I had to pick a highlight it would be the smoked tomato as it was the core and without it you’d just have a salty fishy cracker. Amazing.
Cigarillo de Queso – Goat’s Curd and Quince Cigar ($5.50 each).
Again just as in Melbourne we found some lovely cheese filled cigars on the menu. Of course they were going to be different in Sydney but when they arrived at the table I initially thought they were a completely different dish. Wrapped in brik pastry the cheese cigars were quite an achievement, not quite crisp and not chewy in any way, the pastry was just a carrier for the lovely goat’s curd that was always kept in check by the sweetness of the quince.
Gazpacho de Maize – Sweetcorn Gazpacho served with Alaskan Snow Crab & Macadamia ($9.50 each).
One of the dishes we all ordered was snow crab and sweet corn soup. What is not to love about this dish? It arrived looking pretty much ready to go (and yes, I’d be happy to eat it sans soup) but was then finished at the table with the sweetcorn gazpacho.
Immediately the corn made itself known and was definitely a dominating force in the dish, sweet but delicately so. Beyond the corn hints of cheese and creamy macadamia were noticed and then the crab. It may have been quite subdued but it was the crab that made this dish what it was.
Sardina a la Moraga – Lightly Smoked Sardine on Housemade Cracker ($7.50 each).
When the MoVida crew told us the smoked sardines were amazing we knew they had to be on the list. Much like anchovies, sardines are a love or hate thing. For four of us at the table it was a love thing and we were in luck – these were the best sardines I’ve ever known to exist. Maybe it was the supremely fine capsicum purée on the cracker, or maybe even the shard of dill on the top, but most likely it was the deftly smoked sardine and how superbly soft it was. Oily in a wonderfully fishy way everything worked so well except for the cracker that I felt was just a bit too dense to go with such an incredible sardine.
Croqueta de Jamon Iberico – Jamon Iberico Croquetas ($8.50 for 2 pieces).
Potato and jamon, or jamon and potato, either way you look at it makes for a fantastic combination. Add some cheese into the mix, coat it all in breadcrumbs and deep fry it. What could be better? Beyond the initial crisp crust was a melding of cheese and potato that made me think they were one and the same ingredient, and then the jamon jumped in to advertise the fact that it was the star. Intensely rich and dominant on the salt the prosciutto made these lovely fried morsels utterly addictive.
Bocadillo de Chorizo – Grilled Chorizo & Padron Sandwich ($7.50 each).
These little individual sandwiches looked mega impressive. I truly feel sorry for Lex when a key ingredient is mayonnaise but seeing the paprika soaked oils oozing from the chorizo onto the mayo had me salivating. Padron peppers to me are just a jalapeño without any chilli heat but they did add a nice grilled capsicum flavour to the sliders. I neither loved nor hated these but all I wanted was a real chilli – something with a bit of kick – a jalapeño at the very minimum (perhaps I should mention that of the world’s 5 hottest chillies I grow all of them, and eat them too).
Pastel de Codorniz – Quail & Morcilla in House Made Puff Pastry with an Agridulce Sauce ($12.50 each).
One of the most enticing items on the menu was the ‘sausage roll’ of sorts. Yes I am doing it a disservice it by calling that but it is the easiest way to describe meat encased in puff pastry and cooked until crispy perfection. Inside the pastry we had immaculately cooked quail paired with a soothing blood sausage. Super juicy the quail was the hallmark ingredient but it would not have been the stand-out dish it was without the morcilla and sour agridulce sauce.
Patatas Bravas – Confit Potatoes with Spicy Bravas Sauce ($13.00).
For me a Spanish place wins me over with how they represent one of two things – albondigas or patatas bravas. Available on nearly every tapas menu patatas bravas have ended up being one of my must order items. Quite different from the Melbourne version as the potato here was confited and fairly large in comparison, with a small dab of bravas sauce and a healthy blob of aioli. Each have their merits and I found the potato was silky and soft, the aioli had a healthy amount of garlic but there just didn’t seem to be enough of the superb bravas sauce.
Flan – creme caramel served with pestinos ($14.50).
Having loved it so much in Melbourne I just had to get the flan. Lex will tell anyone time and time again that I don’t have a sweet tooth (much to her dislike) but when it comes to any form of custard dessert I can’t say no.
Straight away I could see the caramel was quite pale and thought this would have a negative impact on the flavour but I was wrong. Suitably sweet the caramel was exactly how it should be with no hints of bitterness from overcooking. I said the Melbourne version was “one of the most impeccably cooked set custards I have ever eaten” but the Sydney version was even better.
Special – goat’s milk cheesecake with chestnuts, dulce de leche cream and macerated strawberries ($16.50).
Nothing on the dessert menu grabbed Lex’s attention until we were told of the special. Goat’s milk cheesecake. It sounded crazy but in a very good way. Instantly it looked like they had hit a home run, the cheesecake was deconstructed (the only way I actually like cheesecake!) Let me just say the goat’s milk was freaking epic in the cheesecake, the filling was super smooth and added that awesome tartness only goat’s milk can bring. Extra touches like the sprinkling of nutmeg, crumbly biscuit base, airy dulce de leche cream and the mega impressive macerated strawberries made for a tremendous dessert.
Our baby and retiree hour dinner was complete. And what a smashing meal it was. We’re thrilled Frank Cammora has finally brought his MoVida empire to Sydney. And having been saddened when Jared Ingersoll closed Cotton Duck it is nice to see another great restaurant operating on the same site.
In its first year MoVida Sydney was awarded two hats in the SMH Good Food Guide, putting it on par with the flagship in Melbourne. I’m not convinced it’s as good as the original but it’s a mighty fine restaurant.
50 Holt Street
(corner Gladstone Street)
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8964 7642
MoVida Sydney Website