MoVida Next Door

November 20, 2013

164 Flinders Street, Melbourne

In late October Mr N and I took ourselves out for an impromptu dinner to MoVida Next Door. The weather was unseasonably, blissfully warm for October, and walking along Collins street in the sunshine, and then down cobbled Hosier Lane, it felt like I a had a new lease on life, as silly and sentimental as that sounds. It’s amazing what an impromptu dinner and a little sunshine can do to people. I’m sorry Liz Lemon, but this time you’re wrong: Yes to love! Yes to life! Yes to going out more!

As you might have garnered from reading my reviews of the original MoVida and MoVida Aqui, I am a bit of a fan of the restaurant group. They’re far and away the best tapas in the city, although I do think that Lulo in Hawthorn is a hot contender (and surely Bar Lourinha wins something for best date venue). Regardless, I’m enamoured with Spanish food, have been ever since I holidayed in Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. I love the fresh flavours and the simple technique that focuses on quality produce.

I’d been to MoVida Next Door a couple of years ago but didn’t blog about it, so I was particularly camera happy this time around. The restaurant is very small, and is organised in a U-shape around a central bar, with the tiny kitchen at the back. Large framed vintage posters for bull fights line the walls, and staff expertly duck around the place in plaid shirts and leather-trimmed aprons.

The service here, as in all MoVida restaurants I’ve eaten at, is perfect. Friendly, lively, interested in the food, and laid back enough that you feel taken care of but not overborne. Hats off to the lovely people at MoVida!

We arrived just before seven and the place was full to the brim, as expected. We soon found a small space at the bar, however, and people-watched for a few minutes with a pre-dinner drink while waiting for a table.

Two glasses of Cava (2008 Segura Viudas Brut Penedes) kicked off the night as we stood at the bar. It was the perfect way to get into the mood for dinner: glancing at people walking by outside, feeling the heat from the kitchen, seeing diners’ eyes light up as delicious smelling plates were delivered to their tables. The place was buzzing, and it felt like everyone in Melbourne wanted to be there.

After a short wait, we were taken to a table facing Flinders Street. In addition to the regular menu of Tapa and Raciones, there are a number of dishes that change every week. These are scrawled onto blackboard tiles above the bar with just the feature ingredient named (Gambas, Esparragos, Tortilla, Pescado), and the wait staff describe the particular way that ingredient is being prepared that week. Though it’s difficult to go past the Tapa on the paper menu, most of the exciting dishes come from the specials boards.

To start though, a couple of tapa went down an absolute treat. The wild mushroom croqueta was hot and crunchy and earthy and everything you want a good croqueta to be.

One of my favourite tapa, the anchoa, was just sensational. I love anchovies for their salty brininess, and having them paired with salty goats curd and capers, and a sweet tomato jelly is a brilliant flavour combination. The perfect snack to have with drinks.

Finally, the fiery bomba, a Catalan potato bomb filled with chorizo and topped with a spicy sauce. These were delicious, but I don’t remember being as impressed by them as I was the first time. I think the memory of the anchoa was still fresh in my mind, and nothing could beat that sweet-briny taste.

Tapa finished, we moved on to a series of larger dishes. One of my favourites from the evening were a pair of gambas, chargrilled prawns with a roja sauce. It was absolutely delicious, the prawns charred, meaty and sweet. I also loved the sauce with parsley, cumin and a touch of oregano. Fantastic.

The only raciones we ordered from the paper menu were the berenjenas, eggplant chips with a salmorejo dipping sauce. I like eggplant, and I like chips, so it was no surprise that we both enjoyed eating these with our hands and dragging them through the sauce, which was similar to a spicy aioli.

Next to the table was probably my favourite dish of the night. The special of pescado was a beautiful piece of blue eye trevally with clams, ham, peas and beans, in a parsley and sherry sauce. Just writing about this dish again makes me want to jump on a tram into the city and order it again – the deeply fresh, intense flavour of the parsley and the sweet flesh of the trevally was such a wonderful combination. A few clams (one more would’t have gone astray to even up the numbers) added visual interest, and the whole thing sat nestled on a slightly al dente pile of beans and peas.

As you can see we polished it off quite nicely.

Our final dish was a neat little row of esparragos, a springtime favourite perfectly plump and sweet, chargrilled to perfection with a rustic romesco of red peppers and almonds.

You may have noticed a distinct lack of meat in our choice of dishes – it was an unseasonably warm October evening so neither of us were in the mood for heavy food. Besides, with so many fantastic fish and vegetable options on the menu, who needs beef? (Kidding, I love me some beef).

To finish, a couple of glasses of sangria (bloody excellent) and dessert to share.

For the same reason that we didn’t order any meat, Mr N and I both found ourselves in the mood for a light dessert (an unusual state of mind for me, given my penchant for chocolate). A pretty little glass of fresas y cava fit the bill perfectly. Strawberries had been diced finely and sliced along the edge of the glass, with some vanilla custard, little cubes of shortbread, a fantastic cava jelly and strawberry sorbet.

Ok, so maybe not “light” per se, but it was fruity and summery and delicious and seemed to hold promises of warmer weather to come (it’s 20 November and apart from two days of heat I’m still waiting for that summer sun – anyone else with me?).

But I digress. MoVida Next Door was great, we loved it, we can’t wait to go back again over the summer for more sangria and prawns and perhaps two serves of those delicious anchoa!

MoVida Next Door on Urbanspoon

Filed under: Melbourne CBD, Spanish

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