Friday, April 01, 2005

Oh yes, please, with a sherry on top - Movida

Piemiento de Piquillo
Melburnians are a trendy lot, in every respect – even food. Fashionistas at Fashion Week would have told you that tapas were “so last season”. True, the days when bars, cafés and restaurants on every other street claimed to serve tapas are over (thank goodness), but like trends in clothing, the true classics remain.

Movida is one such classic. Tucked away in a narrow laneway lined with Vespas and motorcycles beside the Forum theatre, one could easily be led into thinking that they’d been transported to Madrid (bar the uniquely Melbourne graffiti that colours the walls on either side). And we haven’t even stepped into the bar yet.

Inside this “bar de tapas y vino”, it’s surprisingly fresh, featuring lush greens and wood against clean cream walls. It’s a hard-to-describe feeling; comfortably chic is the best I can do. The warm lighting, partially attributed by the natural light, and the cut flowers complete the package nicely.

There are seats at the bar and high benches for those who just want a drink and some tapas, and tables in the main dining area for more substantial dishes, which are written on the walls that also act as blackboards.

Drinks shouldn’t be missed here - firstly because they have a diverse and interesting wine list with drops from Australia, New Zealand and other European countries (including Spain, of course), and secondly because having tapas without a drink is like wearing a trench coat without a belt. It needn’t be a strong drink, though you may like to leave the car at home because they have an intriguing selection of Spanish sherries (all available by the glass) which would go well with the tapas. The brisk and friendly service people would be more than happy to explain them to you. I chose the lovely Emilio Lustau 'Escuadrilla' Amontillado, a sweeter variety, which was nutty both on the palate and the nose, and worked in a pleasant (i have my reservations when it comes to the word 'perfect') harmony with all our dishes, including dessert (more on that later).

The tapas menu has two sections – tapa and racio. The former comes as single portions (for example, one lamb cutlet, one zucchini flower) whereas the latter are slightly larger sharing plates. That, I guess, is the beauty of tapas – ideal for indecisive people like me who want to try a bit of pretty much everything.

First came the ensalada valenciana, an endive salad with palm hearts, olives, and orange segments. Beautiful, particularly the marinated palm hearts. Then there was the piemiento de piquillo, a smoked baby red pepper stuffed with meat from blue swimmer crab and potato which was breadcrumbed and deep-fried. The crumb was a little too dark; two seconds less in the deep fryer would have been fine by me, but it was nonetheless crunchy and flavoursome. The pepper and crabmeat combined to a sweetness only fresh ingredients could emit. Speaking of sweetness, that of the flor de calabacin, a zucchini flower stuffed with goats’ cheese, was no less than delectable. The baby zucchini on the end was the most gratifying I’d ever had; and coupled with the goats’ cheese, just shows how little you have to do to create formidable dishes when you have excellent ingredients. The tortilla de patatas, a frittata-like omelette of confit potatoes and onion was much less exciting on the flavour front, though it serves as a good carb/protein dish to kick off a night of sherries and cider.

It may be hard to imagine having tapas for dessert as well, but let the guys at Movida inspire your imagination with churros (also on a blackboard-wall). This is series of sugar and cinnamon-dusted Spanish donuts in stick form, served with a cup of lusciously rich hot chocolate. Some places serve molten chocolate instead of hot chocolate for dipping the donuts into and offer a small jug of warm milk on the side to add to the remainder of the molten chocolate. Both methods are just as good – this hot chocolate is rich and thick enough to coat the churros, yet fluid enough to drink afterward. The drink is very warming, the kind that I wish I could have near home on a cold, grey winter’s morning.

Whether it be after work drinks, a rendezvous with the girlfriends, or a pre-theatre dinner, this is the place to stop by. The tapas menu and wine list are very reasonably priced – I’m compelled to try their mains one evening, but I might have to put a couple of new fashion purchases on hold.

1 Hosier Lane
Melbourne 3000
+613 96633038
Open: Mon-Fri noon-late, Sat 4pm-late, Sun 5pm-late

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