We had a lot of expectations for this restaurant and Neen being a fabulous wordsmith was tasked with conveying it to blog. Here is her review, reposted from her blog.
One of the things I was most looking forward to about our long weekend in Melbourne, was dining at MoVida. I’ve always heard such good things about it. It gets great reviews, it wins lots of awards, you have to book months in advance, they’ve opened three additional restaurants to cope with demand and they have a hugely popular cook book.
Did it live up to the hype? Well, I have to say that for me, it didn’t. Maybe it’s because my expectations were too high. Maybe it’s because I’d had the best meal of my life two nights before. Or maybe it’s because every time I have tapas, I realise I don’t actually like it that much.
Now don’t get me wrong. We did have a fabulous night there. At our table there were good stories being told, funny games being played and chickens being made out of napkins.
But the thing is, I didn’t walk away with a desire to go back. While most of the food was nice, I’m just not sure I’d really recommend it to anyone as a ‘must dine there’ experience. I’m sceptical that the hype about MoVida’s is warranted.
So here is the low down according to me:
The name: MoVida is named after the art and film movement that flourished in Madrid during Spain’s reawakening in the 1970s.
The chef: Frank Camorra, originally from Barcelona.
The location: 1 Hosier Lane, just past MoVida Next Door. The laneway is really quite cool. There’s European style cobblestone and walls of graffiti.
The ambience: The dining area is pretty compact and didn’t feel all that Spanish to me. I had also expected it to be busy and bustling but it wasn’t really. Although I guess that’s because we were there on a Sunday night.
The service: We were left alone for a while when we first arrived but then our waitress got it together and was good to us for the rest of the evening.
The price: Individually, no dish was all that expensive. But as usual when you have tapas, it all adds up and you can sometimes end up paying more than you expected.
The beverages: The wine list is pretty pricey, with only a couple of bottle costing less than $50.
The menu: There’s the choice of tapa (small individual dishes) or raciones (plates to share among two or more people, or a larger dish for one). They also had a few specials. There were lots of options in each category so it took us a little while to decide on our ordering strategy.
The foodage: First of all, we were brought two different types of bread. One had a cheesy top and one was sort of dense and crumbly, a bit like sourdough. There was some peppery, almost bitter, olive oil to accompany it. If I hadn’t had the most amazing bread EVER, two nights before, I might have liked this.
The other tapa we ordered included:
Croqueta $4.00 each
I love a good croquette, so we ordered four of the MoVida version which were fried and silky. We cut them up to share and oozing out came some deliciously smooth, creamy jamon and egg filling. I think the jamon (Spanish for ham) brought a nice smoky depth to the flavour.
Gambas con romesco $3.50 each
Mandy, Nath and I each tried one of these cubes of freshly cooked prawns. We liked the romesco sauce, which seemed to be made of pine nuts, garlic and red capsicum. However unfortunately it completely overpowered the flavour of the prawn itself. And they were a bit cold.
Tigre $3.70 each
Mel and Jay each ordered one of these Spring Bay mussels. Stuffed with dried chorizo and lemon alioli , they certainly looked delightful!
From the raciones side of the menu, we ordered:
Aceitunas, marinated in citrus, garlic and thyme $7.00
After I had declared to everyone at the table that olives were MY VERY FAVOURITE FOOD, it seemed important to order two serves. I guess my fellow diners were worried I’d devour every last one of them.
Accompanying the large green olives were a whole bunch of tiny ones, which to me, didn’t really taste all that flavoursome.
As far as marinated olives go, I’ve had a lot better.
I love to eat octopus. Love it! I was most excited to discover that Mandy & Nathan do too!
The MoVida version is char grilled and served with chickpeas and their own, house made chorizo. This dish was cooked to perfection – the occy were tender and intensely flavoursome.
I did an undignified amount of ooohhhing, ahhiing and eye rolls of bliss. This led to Mandy kindly letting me eat the last few pieces. I must remember this trick!
These little suckers (I had to say it) were my favourite dish the night.
Bistec tartar of wagyu $18
Bleh. I can barely look at the picture below without feeling sick. Ian loves a steak tartar but I myself am not at all a fan of raw meat. The others all tried this though, Mel and Jay being tartar fans also.
The general consensus, (when I could bare to turn and look across at them eating this raw stuff) was that the wagyu was incredibly good. The chilli on top was too spicy though and overpowered the meat.
Setas asadas con jerez $12.50
My initial bite of the mushrooms made me screw my face up. They’re oven roasted in sherry vinegar and I found the flavour too strong. A few more mouthfuls though and they’d grown on me.
After Ian’s first mouthful he said, with a frown, ‘They taste quite mushroomy’. Then a few bites later he claimed with a happier face, “They taste like meat!”
This dish seemed to be everyone’s favourite. Pan seared quail breasts with fried bread and grapes. I didn’t taste the quail itself but I did like the grapes.
The words ‘scrumptious’, ‘sweet’, ‘tender’ and ‘delicate’ were being thrown around by my friends and there was a whole lotta lip smacking going on. I should have asked more questions really, because I feel bad now that I am lacking in adjectives for what seemed to be the dish of the night.
Espinacas con garbanzos $12.50
This delicious dish of sautéed spinach with chickpeas was super tasty. I loved the earthy, spicy flavours, especially the cumin.
It came out at the wrong time of night though. We were just about finishing up and it felt far too filling for the last plate of the night.
From the specials menu, we ordered:
Rabbit wrapped in prosciutto
The only thing I’m fussy about when it comes to food is meat. I don’t like anything raw and I don’t really like anything other than beef. Sometimes I’ll eat lamb and sometimes I’ll eat chicken. But rabbit is not something I’d ever had before or had the desire to try. However before I got to MoVida I had pre-decided that I was going to be brave about at least one dish. So when our waitress told us that the tapa special of the night was rabbit, I happily agreed to ordering a couple of serves so that we could all try it.
I was instantly put off when it was delivered to our table. The waitress plonked down the two dishes, saying with a flourish “Here’s the bunny”.
I did try a few little nibbles but it was far too fresh and succulent for me. I know fresh and succulent is a meant to be good when it comes to meat. All I could think though was ‘I’m eating a bunny. And it’s really fresh. Freshly dead. And juicy. Bunny. Juicy. Juicy bunny’. Suffice to say, it messed with my chi, hard.
I couldn’t finish my piece. I know the others like it though. Ian commented that he thought it should have been a more generous, racion serve. However I think that because it was so rich, eating more than just a tapa share could have been too much.
I seriously loved this paella. We ordered two for the table and then realised it was a silly move, given that half of our group are not big seafood eaters.
But seafood to me is the best food on earth so I tucked into what I thought was a perfectly cooked dish. The flavours were really simple. There was just the right amount of garlic as well as a hint of chilli. I also liked that it didn’t taste too fishy. Sometimes a heavy fish flavour really overpowers paella.
This is my favourite Spanish dish so I was happy that it was cooked well.
Nobody really felt like dessert except for Ian. He ordered some churros and shared it around. I passed – churros to me always tastes sickly sweet. E did say though that this version was lovely. Not knock out amazing, but a nice end to the night.
So there we have it. MoVidas. I’d give it about 7/10.
Mel’s note: I would have scored it about 5/10….not that impressive. Australian Gourmet Traveller must have been on crack when they talk about it with the catch-phrase “MoVida mo magic”. What.Evs. But mixed reviews seem to be the only consistent thing about MoVida. Critics seem to love it and every person I’ve spoken to who have been there said it was crap.