Sunday, November 27, 2011

Movida Aqui (for when you can only pick one)

Movida Aqui
Level 1, 500 Bourke St
Telephone: 03 9663 3038

Opening Hours: Lunch & Dinner. Mon-Fri: 12 noon until late; Sat: 6pm until late

Here is something they don’t tell you when you start blogging. Suddenly, there's a notion of responsibility when you're asked (and you so often are) to 'recommend a place'.

Being a ‘blogger’ connotes you consider yourself 'some' form of authority on the subject. They have a bad experience, and you’ve ruined their night (possibly their one and only in the city); they have a good one, and you (rightly) get no love, it’s not your restaurant after all.

Movida Aqui for me is a bit like the Ipod of MP3 players. If I’m stumped for recommendations it’s the safest (even if not the most original) option that comes to mind. Also, in booking-saturated Melbourne (and to avoid hellish no-booking queues), it's the best place you might get an 'in' at the last minute.

Here is the main reason you should spend your one night of Melbourne consumption here:

Paella de Marisco ($65 for Grande)

This was exemplary — the standard to which other paellas aspire. Lush with clams, calamari, king prawns, firm chunks of fish, and goodly rich saffron rice, with an obligatory layer of gorgeous crust at the base of the pan. Size-wise this was huge so, as good as it is, I wouldn’t expect you could finish if you were only two people (‘grande’ is recommended for groups of 2-4). Be warned that this will ruin you for all other paellas: I’ll definitely never be able look at the ‘big pan’ market versions the same way again.

I also really liked:

Carillera de buey ($22.50)

An eat-with-a-fork slowly braised beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez, the intensity of which was very nicely complemented by the smooth cauliflower puree (an interesting alternative to the usual potato). There’s nothing particularly original about this dish (I’ve seen variations of it everywhere, and even featured one on my maze Melbourne review), but I keep ordering it anyway because this is the epitome of comfort food: a tender hunk of meat with a side o’ mash.

This was a special on the night:

The board had a better description I failed to take down so you’ll have to contend with ‘squid stuffed with crab, and I believe, bits of potato’. I do remember, however, that it tasted fantastic. Both the squid and crab were very fresh and had great, juicy resistance. There were also some good, varying textures in the stuffing.

I find it difficult to have tapas without ordering a croquette of some variety:

Bomba ($4.50 each)

Hurried photograph, unfortunately, because there’s nothing worse than a cold croquette! This was textbook excellent: slim, crispy exterior and a filling of potato embedded with cheerfully spicy chunks of chorizo.

And the things that are not as they seem:

Pincho de tortilla ($4.80)

Apologies for the other bad photograph of the night. Perhaps it was the sheer surprise of receiving this under the description ‘organic egg and spinach tortilla with manchego’. It was more like an egg and spinach cake and, texturally, was very reminiscent of Japanese tamago. Good value going by the size but it was perhaps a bit bland. A touch of Tabasco really (if blasphemously) gave it some kick.

Setas ($16.50)

These are clearly mushrooms, as written on the menu (mushrooms cooked on the plancha, finished with sherry vinegar), but come under the ‘not as they seem’ category because they were freakishly the best mushrooms we ever had (and I was raised in a fungus-loving family). They were incredible: small but toothsome and caused tiny explosions of flavour in the mouth. We even considered ordering another plateful. Not your typical side dish.


Churros con chocolate ($12.50)

The texture of the churros was fabulous, not at all like some fast-food versions I could mention. These were much thicker and softer (properly doughnut-y) but still crispy. The chocolate was deceptively simple in description ('drinking chocolate’): it was gloriously dense and laced with orange.

Helados ($14.50)

Homemade ice creams with fig bread. Portions were perhaps a bit small (especially when shared between four!) but these were seriously rich and punchy scoops of sticky caramel, ginger, and grapefruit, the last being more of a sorbet. Also, don’t expect the fig bread to be, well, bread-like: it’s a very chewy nougat-esque slice best nibbled in small doses.

The best thing about recommending Movida Aqui? Consistency (reduces the fear of bad-meal backlash). I’ve personally eaten there on three occasions with three different groups at three different times over the past (I want to say three) six months, and a great time was had by all.

Tip: Order the paella (you'll want to) even before you've made your other selections as there's a significant waiting time on the dish!

Don't think going up the one flight of stairs to get there will even dent the quantity of calories that will be consumed once you get inside.

Don’t forget that you can still sign up for my Heston Blumenthal book giveaway (including The Fat Duck cookbook) in the post below (open until 12/12/2011). Exclusive to this blog, no effort required, and not many entries yet so you’re in with a huge chance!

Where do you recommend people go if they’ve only got one night in town?

MoVida Aqui and Terraza on Urbanspoon


  1. Omg I hate being asked for recommendations! The places I want to visit or love eating at don't suit everyone's tastes.

    And now you've asked me for my one recommendation and my mind is a total blank. Eeek! Ummm... I probably recommend Cumulus Inc the most - it's very "Melbourne", not that expensive (tho admittedly it's not cheap), and I really like the food there.

  2. Wow, that review tastes great!

  3. Agnes: I know, I'm always at a bit of a loss when asked to recommend a place - it's about as subjective as 'recommend a dress I should wear' with zero context!! Cumulus Inc always a safe bet for somewhere properly Melburninan I reckon!

    Kenny: Thanks, I'm STARVING now! ;)

  4. You know what.. I still not been and now Im in Sydney. Damn!

  5. I hate being asked all the time!! It's ridiculous! I mean go and read the papers and urbanspoon!! Sigh....

  6. Penny: Heaps of great places in Sydney! I'M jealous I'm not there now ;)

    msihua: It IS a tough question hey!

  7. Sighs, the bane of my existence. I regret not being able to go there when I went to visit Melbourne last year. I shall book your sister and you for dinner there next year so that we can try more dishes and order the grande paella. Paella's my fave spanish right behind sangria =P lol Churros is a good 3rd =)

  8. Kev: Yes totally do that! When are you coming? I'll make sure to reserve a place with a view ;)

  9. three bags full. :) it's a cafe and if you're not a coffee person, you'll love tea. if you're neither, you can always have water. there are sandwiches, breakfast food, wraps etc. it's hard to get it wrong... it's a 'safe' sort of place. :D

    for me, i will be happy to be asked for recommendations but i think the ask-ee has to be very SPECIFIC about what they want

  10. Without a doubt, the place I would recommend is Ezard. It's been in Melbourne for almost 12 years, turning out consistently good food. Sure, it's expensive - it's a 2 hatter - but the food is mind blowingly good (crab dumplings in a tom kha broth, pork hock in chilli caramel - both OMG dishes), and the service is sublime. It also has the benefit of being one of those famously subterranean Melbourne restaurants, with a hard to find entrance. An amazing place for a splurge in Melbourne.

  11. Urgh I know what you mean with recommendations! I always go blank as well when I get asked so I just have an odd look on my face. D:

    But Aqui would be indeed a great choice, I didn't get to try the paella last time, but I do fondly remember the bombas. Mmmmm.

    I always suggest Hardware Societe for lunch/brunch/breakfast and Izakaya Den (as long as they get there early!)

  12. The mushroom dish looks great. I would also try the squid minus the 'butter-looking' sauce !

    Don't think I can recommend any Sydney restaurants - too much home cooking is definitely no good...

  13. Michelle: I've been wanting to try Three Bags Full for some time! Heard great things about their coffee, but clearly there are other offerings to be had ;)

    Ashley: I keep wanting to go to Izakaya Den and forgetting!! Thanks for the reminder. And yes, my brain always freezes over when I get asked to recommend a place ;)

    AT: Home cooking is best! I highly recommend yours :)

  14. Helen: I've been to Ezard! It's the subject of an upcoming review :)

  15. Thank you. Another highly informative and funny posting.
    My recommendation: go look for a friend (and I mean it, not the FB type!) and go to wherever that offers comfortable eating, it does not matter where!

  16. Omgggg Vee, TELL ME ABOUT IT!!! I actually don't mind as much that they ask me for recommendations, but I really DON'T like it that people are just extra aware and self-conscious when they're eating with me just cause they know I'm a "food blogger"! They're always so worried that it might "displease" me omg. I actually don't mind food as much! That's why I totally try not to have any say and make ppl feel as comfortable, relax and just order whatever they like!

    Anyway, glad to read your review of this place. Walked past this place too many times so glad to know I can try this out someday too. I recommend lotsa diff places depending on the cuisine they want. Hope to cover them all one by one in the future on my blog haha =]

  17. DJ: Company and comfort eating IS a really clever combination ;)

    Winston: Your friends are pretty nice to try and accommodate to your food blogger-ness! Mine just make fun of me haha.

  18. I finally had my first Movida experience the other day and the food was AMAZING! Must get over to their Aqui now!

  19. imasugarjunkie: I like Aqui for groups especially because of the paella, but I figure if you're dining for two (or one!), the original can't be beat!

  20. I've never been to any of the Frank Camorra restaurants, but that looks really nice!

    I love Spanish tortilla! Especially the traditional potato tortilla. Haven't had any in ages - and you're right it's more of an egg cake than the Mexican flat pancake tortilla. Shame this one was underseasoned though. :(

    xox Sarah