Melbourne, VIC 3000
Any Melbourne foodie worth their salt would recognise the laneway above. Most locals, as well as tourists, recognise Hosier Lane as ‘the lane with the awesome graffiti’, but foodies will immediately lock onto, and see nothing but the red sign boldly proclaiming Movida Bar de Tapas. This two hatted tapas bar is the very essence of Melbourne-cool, and the perfect place to celebrate my one year bloggerversary! And my 100th post!
Knowing how popular MoVida is, I made Chris loiter with me outside the entrance for fifteen minutes, planning to rush in and claim a seat the moment they opened their doors at noon. Admittedly I had a second motive, that being to take some pictures of the laneway graffiti art, which seems like a pre-requisite for all blog posts on MoVida.
Heading in at ten minutes past noon (I was an eager beaver but I didn’t want to seem TOO desperate), we had our choice of seats in the restaurant or at the bar. We were promptly handed menus and had our glasses topped up by a waiter who was so good at his job that he even managed to get the ever-so-slightly surly Chris nice and relaxed.
|Relaxed Chris, and the MoVida Logo|
And whilst relaxed-Chris stared out the window, I had the immensely difficult task of choosing what to order. For once I’m actually not exaggerating when I say that I wanted to try everything on the menu. Every single dish sounded like gastronomic adventure, but in the end I managed to whittle it down to 7 bite sized tapas, 2 raciones (larger sharing dishes), and one dessert. It was good to see that there was a decent selection of vegetarian dishes, though if you don’t eat meat then will miss out on quite a bit of the MoVida experience.
|Complimentary Bread and Olive Oil|
I got really excited when we were given our complimentary bread – I had actually completely forgotten about that part. Upon me asking, our extremely knowledgeable waiter explained that the bread is actually made in house. One is a moist and chewy focaccia made with lots of olive oil and sea salt, and the other is a traditional crusty baguette with a good dusting of white flour. Is there anything in the world better than fresh bread dipped into a fruity and slightly bitter olive oil?
The first dish that came to us was the Anchoa ($4.5ea), which consisted of a sliver of artisan anchovy on a thin crouton, topped with a small scoop of smoked tomato sorbet. This is MoVida’s signature dish, and for good reason. The meaty anchovy gave way to the snap of the crouton; the salty fish was mellowed out by the slight sweetness from the smoked tomato; the ice crystals of the sorbet melted on the tongue – this tiny morsel is an astounding playground of textures, flavours, and even temperatures.
|Pollo Escabache Al Miguel ($4.5ea)|
The Pollo Escabache Al Miguel ($4.5ea) was a slightly larger tapa. It was basically a fancy chicken salad sandwiched by two crouton crisps. However I guarantee that you’ve never had chicken salad like this before. The creaminess of it was compromised by a sharp acidic tang (that tasted slightly alcoholic!) and a healthy pinch of spices, enough to leave the tongue tingling long after you finished the delicious morsel.
The Lengua ($3.5ea) was a lot more understated in presentation; a thin slice of veal tongue was rolled into a cigar, lightly charred, and served with a green pepper sofrito. I don’t quite know what a sofrito is, but I knew that it added a wallop of flavour to the faintly smoky and melt-in-mouth veal tongue.
|Patatas Con Lomo ($3.5ea)|
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ordered the Patatas Con Lomo ($3.5ea). It was described as confit potato with cured pork loin and egg yolk. Imagine my surprise when we were served with what was essentially a gourmet chip! The dense and fluffy potato baton was delicious wrapped in the buttery, paper-thin slice of cured pork and dipped in the egg yolk, but one part of my brain kept screaming that YOU PAID $3.5 FOR ONE SINGLE POTATO CHIP!
|Croquetas De Choco En Su Tinta ($4ea)|
Chris' scepticism of the Croquetas De Choco En Su Tinta ($4ea), a squid ink croqueta with cuttlefish, turned into outright horror when we cut it in half and discovered that the insides were as dark as the heart of Voldemort. Surprisingly, it didn’t taste too different from a normal potato croquette, with a crunchy exterior and creamy center, and a slight whiff of the ocean from the slice of cuttlefish lovingly wrapped around it. So yes, it was delicious.
The Codorniz ($5.5ea), a bite sized serving of pressed quail and morcilla with apple and pickled garlic, was a work of art. Grab a shard of crouton, smear it with a dab of the fruity apple sauce, top it off with a tender, garlicky piece of quail, and you have yourself a perfect mouthful.
|Cordero Al Chilindron ($4.5ea)|
The last tapa we shared was the Cordero Al Chilindron ($4.5ea). The natural sweetness from the wet roast lamb breast was enhanced by the fino and paprika sauce on top. Now if only they made this in a much, much larger portion...
After a frenzy of taking photos and writing notes (and of course, eating!), we were done with the tapas, and were ready to move onto the larger raciones. Note that whilst the food above may not look like it’s very much, our stomaches were actually well lined at this point, and ready for something a bit more substantial.
|Carrillera De Buey ($23.5)|
We were feeling especially carnivorous today, just like every other day, so we ordered the meat heavy dish of Carrillera De Buey ($23.5). The chunk of slow braised beef cheek drizzled with a sweet and sticky sherry sauce was luxuriously unctuous, and broke up at the mere touch of our forks. The cauliflower puree on the side was even more impressive. It was the very essence of cauliflower in a silky and creamy puree, and the natural bitterness was the perfect partner to the sweetness of the beef.
|Setas Asadas Con Jerez ($12.5)|
Our raciones were quickly proving to be as unsightly as our tapas were beautiful. The Setas Asadas Con Jerez ($12.5) were a startling black, and we initially had trouble recognising that they were in fact the oven roasted portobello mushrooms we ordered. However, beauty is skin deep, and in this bowl was the key to shroom heaven (that didn’t make me sound like a druggy at all). The earthy mushrooms were roasted until they were meaty and juicy, and then finished with olive oil and sherry vinegar. I could have eaten this all day, if it weren’t for the fact that they were incredibly rich, despite being nothing but a bowl of mushrooms. In the end, no matter how hard I tried, there were still two mushrooms left at the bottom of the bowl. Ultimate sadness.
|Flan Con Pestinos ($12)|
This was the moment I’ve been looking forward to. We first tried the Flan Con Pestinos ($12) at MoVida Aqui over a year ago, and from then on our conversations about dessert would inevitably stray back to wistful reminiscing about it. Thankfully, it was everything we remembered and more. The perfectly smooth crème caramel was sleek, sexy, and drizzled with a bitter caramel sauce. It’s the kind of dessert that begs for closed eyes, appreciative murmurs, and contented smiles. And the icing on the cake (or if you will, the caramel sauce on the flan) was the fact that the biscuits we didn’t like last time were now replaced by fingers of crumbly sherry pastries that tasted like donuts. It was the perfect ending to the meal.
There are so many things I like about MoVida, but I’ll just stick to the few that stood out most. Firstly, despite being at the top of the restaurant pecking order, it is neither pretentious nor discriminating. They treat everyone with genuine warmth, regardless of whether you’re a high-rolling suit, or students out for a drink and a good feed. Secondly, the food is creative yet approachable. It quietly showcases what you can do with good produce, but occasionally slips in a surprise to keep you on your toes. And finally, our waiter was absolutely phenomenal, rounding out our experience with his laid-back yet professional attitude. Oh bearded and glasses wearing waiter who told me I couldn’t have dessert if I didn’t finish my vegetables, I wish I had caught your name.
Rating: 17.5/20 – unpretentious fine dining. also, finish your vegetables.