Down a graffiti-clad, cobblestone laneway you will find Movida. Still as popular as it ever was, this tiny restaurant is an eruption of noise from the line of diners waiting for tables competing with those lucky enough to already be seated. The dining room itself is dark and brooding. Small tables lay close together, lit up by industrial fixtures that bounce light off the pop art lined walls.
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A graffiti-lined alleyway isn't a conventional location for a two-hat restaurant – unless we're talking about MoVida. Calling Hosier Lane home for the last 10 years, Frank Camorra and his team have revolutionised the way we think about Spanish food in Australia. The restaurant is cosy affair with small tables quirkily arranged to maximise space – a reminder of all those tiny apartments you encounter on holidays to Europe. Diners can be found in every nook and cranny, including the bar which, thankfully doubles as an eating space.
At MoVida, classic Spanish flavours dominate the kitchen however each dish is presented with a unique twist. Take the pescado ahumado; cold-smoked kingfish with a pine-nut gazpacho - a dish that is in equal parts traditional and scientific. Arriving at the table in a miniature cast-iron pot, diners remove the lid to release the fragrant smoke that lightly flavours the kingfish. Stay here long enough and you'll smell (and then see) this telltale aroma from almost every table in the restaurant. The anchoa, MoVida's signature tapa, arrives as a thin crouton topped with hand-filleted Catalonian anchovy and a cornel of tomato sorbet. There's no magic show with this dish, just a well-thought out combination of flavours and textures. To accompany the smaller bites there are raciones, some of which are more substantial than others. The beef cheeks are braised in Pedro Ximenez until perfectly tender, with plenty of reduced sauce for the cauliflower purée it rests on; or a classic dish of Galician slow-style octopus with potatoes is perfect with intermittent sips of a full-bodied sherry or Spanish vino. Desserts are scrawled on the chalkboard above the kitchen, but with churros and hot-chocolate dipping sauce as the first on the list, we must admit, we stopped reading after that. MoVida may have its own spin-offs, popping up across Melbourne, and even Sydney, but there's no slowing the original - a testament to good food, good wine and good company.