Despite often eating olives and blue cheese when I was growing up, my culinary preferences now lean very much towards all sorts of Asian cuisine and I generally avoid the food of my childhood.
It’s true I was initially ambivalent to coriander and the like. Travelling around Asia – and a few cooking classes – changed my mind. I find the simple, fresh and light food irresistible.
It is strange, then, I’ve been eagerly anticipating a Mediterranean-inspired dinner at Movida. But, ever since eating very good churros at their bar off Hosier Lane, I’ve vowed to come back.
Movida is very Spanish. It’s also very Melbourne (that’s a term people here seem to say a lot). I suppose it is – it’s down a laneway, inside it is warm and dark on a cold winter night.
It also still seems very hard to get a booking. I’ve tried several times for Friday and Saturday nights, opting now for mid-week. I just can’t wait anymore.
The menu reflects the simple and unpretentious style of Spanish food – there’s a whole range of tapas, raciones (share plates) and postre (sweets). I love communal dining.
My bloke and I deliberate, reading and re-reading each description carefully. Just where to start our feast? It’s a vast menu, it all sounds amazing.
I start with the anchovy. It’s served on a crouton with smoked tomato sorbet (I love anchovies and have been known to eat many out of the jar, this is far more sophisticated).
My bloke tries the petite – but flavour packed – deep fried potato. It comes with a very delicious aioli that’s slightly spicy.
We opt for a series of share plates.
First, beef tartare – the plate is cool, a quail yoke is on top of the grass fed Wagyu beef. It’s fresh, there’s a slight spice. It’s something we’ve wanted to try for a while, it’s a great starter.
The Portobello mushrooms – with sherry vinegar – are a surprise. We love mushrooms generally. It’s simple and perfect. It’s also a nice change from the usual butter, garlic and herbs.
Not surprisingly, the beef cheeks are slowly braised to perfection. The meat is so tender it is served with a spoon. It falls apart at the touch.
It’s served on cauliflower puree. It’s rich and completely addictive (I ponder whether it’s something I could try to make at home, the benchmark is impossibly high now though).
We order salad also, to add some lightness to the meal. With all the intense flavours, it’s probably the least interesting of all the dishes. Its purpose is purely functional.
It’s a very hearty dinner. But there’s one thing missing – we need a sweet ending.
Dessert wines round off the meal, along with churros and crème caramel. When the waiter asks if we’re sharing, there’s a resounding and very firm no from my bloke.
On desserts we do have different tastes. On this we are selfish and do not compromise.
Spanish food is wonderfully varied and highly influenced by other cultures – the first recipes written in the fourteenth century reflect the exploration and colonization at the time.
The food is influenced by the Moors, French, Italians, Arabs and Jews. There are also many regional specialties reflecting the varied nature of the country itself.
The food at Movida reflects the best of all that. It’s very, very good. The wait was worth it. I don’t have Spanish food often, but every time I am impressed.
While every city has a plethora of Italian restaurants Spanish doesn’t appear as common. I’m pleased it’s popularly appears to be rising. I want more.
Food and dining experiences often trigger holiday flashbacks for me. Just like Victoria St in Richmond reminds me of Asia, tonight I get fond memories of a past trip to Central America.
In preparation for visiting Cuba, Mexico, Beliza, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama the bloke and I learnt very basic Spanish.
Naturally, this included a few key phrases for dining: una mesa para dos (table for two), dos cerveza (two beers).
I’m reminded of all this while reading Movida’s menu – I like that the language is used. The bloke and I joke that, at least here in Australia, no one will be expecting me to speak Spanish.
As we travelled Central America I became increasingly tanned (a product of being out in the sun and being on anti-Malaria tablets). So much so, the locals thought I was local.
When my bloke incorrectly pronounced something – which, bless him, he often did – they’d turn to me and expect some sort of brilliant fluency.
Fortunately tonight I can relax. No one expects me to order fluently in Spanish. I can just take in this wonderful meal (incidentally, much better than what we had on our travels).
A friend recently returned from Portugal tells me food there is just as good – if not better – than neighbouring Spain.
After tonight, that’s a really big call. As a foodie, I can’t betray my love of all food and take sides: both countries are now firmly in my sights for an overseas food adventure.
Featured image: stock image
Other images: my own