I am a massive fan of Spanish cuisine and have been waiting patiently to try the tapas at MoVida for months. I first tried my luck at booking a table at MoVida Sydney back when it first opened, but it seemed that the rest of Sydney had the same idea as me and it was practically booked out for months. Luckily, my patience has paid off – the boy took me to MoVida Sydney for our anniversary, followed by MoVida Bar de Tapas y Vino in Melbourne to see how the two measure up against each other.
First up was our visit to the Frank Camorra’s Sydney outpost on a quiet street in Surry Hills close to Central station. The restaurant is bustling and spacious, with a variety of seating options like their slide-in booths or tall stools at their big wooden bar.
On the way to our table, we walk past their open kitchen with plenty of activity going on inside it and a massive fish with huge round eyes resting on a bed of ice behind a glass display cabinet. The vibe of the restaurant was relaxed but upbeat, with colourful Spanish art painted on the walls and dim mood lighting to give it some atmosphere.
Once seated, the waitress gave us a rundown on the different sections of the menu – from the smaller tapas servings to shareable larger serving of racion, which is a great intro for those who are uninitiated in the ways of Spanish tapas dining.
We started with the Croqueta de Jamon Iberico as it was one of the only tapas on the menu which comes in a serving for 2. The Croqueta looked unassuming in its little bowl, but don’t let the looks deceive you. The lightly crumbed morsels were crunchy with a rich creamy middle that had a hit of salty jamon laced throughout it.
Croqueta de jamon iberico, $8.50 (2 pieces)
With our appetites primed for more tapas – out came the Bocadillo de Chorizo, which was a grilled chorizo and padron sandwich. It looked like a cute little slider with a toothpick holding it all together, with a rather chunky chorizo patty in the middle. The chorizo was the key here, bursting with juicy flavour and given an extra punch from the aioli sauce with it. I loved the moreish flavours in the sandwich and my only gripe with it was that it should’ve been bigger!
Bocadillo de Chorizo, $7.25 each
Apart from the tapas, we also ordered some larger raciones (mains) to share. The Cecina caught our eye with its menu description of air cured wagyu beef with truffle foam and poached egg. The egg was cut apart by the waiter to allow the yolk to ooze out and create a sauce, then the meat was wrapped around the egg and the truffle foam and left to soak for around 5 minutes before we dug into it. Intrigued at the end of our little wait, I can confirm that it is simply a sensational dish. The thin slices of wagyu were well marbled and full of savoury flavour from the curing, complemented nicely by the truffle foam and soft egg.
We also ordered the Arroz Caldoso from their daily specials menu, which was described as Tasmanian Surf Clams cooked in Smoked Wet Rice (paella style). It was meant to be a bigger serving but there weren’t that many clams on the plate, although they were sweet and seasoned with exotic spices. The amount of rice on the plate was actually rather sparse as well and it was difficult to eat off a plate with a fork. This was the most underwhelming dish of the night, but it had a lot to live up to coming after the first 3 dishes.
Arroz Caldoso, $29.50
We capped off our MoVida Sydney experience with a little postre (dessert) of churros. It was a generous serving of the classic Spanish doughnuts, which were paired with a rich drinking chocolate dipping sauce. The sauce was a winner as it had great complex flavours with a slight bitter aftertaste to counteract the sugary fried doughnuts. The consistency of the sauce was a bit too thick for me, but the boy found it absolutely delectable.
Churros con chocolate, $14.50
I was impressed by the modern dishes at MoVida Sydney and loved the strong flavours of Spanish cuisine created with flair. Admittedly, the dishes were quite pricey considering the size of the servings (especially the tapas), but MoVida is famous for a reason and the premium paid for the delicious flavours is reasonable for most of the dishes.
50 Holt Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone:(02) 8964 7642
MoVida Bar de Tapas, Melbourne
There’s a few eateries in Melbourne which bear the MoVida name, but we decided to go to the original and booked a month in advance for our table at MoVida Bar de Tapas y Vino in Hosier Lane in Melbourne. This restaurant has a different vibe from MoVida Sydney – my first impression is that it feels more artsy (thanks to its location in one of Melbourne’s famous graffiti lanes) and more brightly lit too. The decor is simpler and it is in a smaller space than its Sydney sibling but it is just as packed with diners, which is a reassuring sign.
Interestingly, the menu features some variations on the dishes we saw in Sydney (the Cecina is on the menu too and was $3.50 cheaper) and the tapas are priced lower in Melbourne too. We soon find out why they are cheaper – the tapas are all tiny single servings, although to be fair each tapas are very flavoursome in its own way and a larger serving would probably overwhelm our tastebuds.
We start with a rather large Freshly Shucked Oyster which was paired with seaweed and some refreshing cucumber. It’s a daily special and was served so quickly that it was still really cold to bite into.
Freshly shucked Oyster, $5 each
Next we tried MoVida’s signature tapa called the Anchoa which features a hand filleted Cantabrian artisan anchovy on a crispy thin “crouton” with a smoked tomato sorbet. I’m not actually a fan of anchovies, but somehow the saltiness from the thin sliver of anchovy and the chilled savoury sorbet worked well together, with bursts of sourness coming from the capers scattered on top of the dish.
Anchoa, $4.50 each
I love patatas bravas and pretty much order it at every Spanish restaurant that I go to, so I couldn’t resist ordering it at MoVida too. I was in for a bit of a shock as the Patata Brava which came out was a tiny deep fried potato gem with a dollop of spicy aioli on top and a smear of tomato salsa on the bottom. It was very tasty (it’s hard to go wrong with potato + aioli), but I still couldn’t help but feel a bit ripped off at having paid $3.50 for a literal bite sized morsel.
Patata brava, $3.50 each
In contrast, the Bunuelos de Bacalao was a much more satisfying tapa, it was a delicious piping hot ball of deep fried salt cod and potato fritta with pil pil sauce.
Bunuelos de Bacalao, $4 each
Our next tapa was the Sopa, a garlic soup poured from a small jug into a mini bowl at our table and garnished with a delicate little calamari ring. The soup was served lukewarm and had quite a strong garlic flavour infused into the tomato base of the soup, while the calamari was soft and chewy. Not the most impressive dish, despite my love for garlic.
Sopa, $4 each
The Cerdo was a tasty morsel of breaded pork jowl with roast carrot salmorejo and delicately placed thin onion rings decorating it on the side. It’s hard to go wrong with that pork, a melty layer of fatty goodness contrasting beautifully with the crunchy bread crumb crust.
Cerdo, $5.50 each
The last tapa we ordered was the Gamba, which was simply a whole salt baked S.A. prawn. The boy had insisted on this tapa and while the prawn was quite large, I really didn’t like the rock salt which had been thrown on top of the baked prawn as the salt was hard to avoid and unleashed way too much saltiness on my tastebuds when I accidentally bit down on them. The prawn itself had a rather mushy texture and didn’t have much flavour to it (apart from the too generous amounts of salt served with it).
Gamba, $3.50 each
After all the flavour hits from the tapas, we rounded off the meal with a Cordero al Chilindron racione to share. This was an amazing dish that was undeniably the highlight of our two MoVida experiences – the slow cooked Flinders Island lamb neck was incredibly tender and melted in our mouths in an addictive paprika and fino sauce.
Cordero al Chilindron, $21
While there were definitely a mix of hits and misses at MoVida Bar de Tapas y Vino, I think overall the quality of the dishes was better at the original Melbourne restaurant and the range of tapa to choose from was much more extensive too. It’s easy to see why the MoVida brand has earnt a reputation for top notch Spanish cuisine and if you pick your dishes wisely off the menu, you will most certainly be rewarded by tantalising flavours.
MoVida Bar de Tapas
1 Hosier Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9663 3038