Movida was at the top of my list of restaurants to dine at during my brief trip to Melbourne. There's something about the Spanish way of eating that I adore, and I must admit, I've often envisioned a siesta after a lazy lunch. How I'd love to be sitting in the middle of a terraza, feeling the worn cobblestones beneath my tired feet, the dappled sunlight warming my cheeks. The moment would be complete when a ruggedly handsome waiter appears with a platter of paper-thin slivers of pulpo á galega in one hand and a glass of Mahou con limon, dripping with cool beads of condensation, in the other. "Muchisimas gracias!" I'd say, rolling the long 'R' off my tongue and trying to imitate the soft lisp that only true Spaniards can make sound absolutely sexy.
It's my first time in Melbourne so we spend the afternoon exploring dark laneways, and taking photos of public artwork and commission pieces. Our map leads us down Hosier Lane where I spot the Spanish mecca. I peek through the window to get a glimpse of what wonders tonight may hold and I'm greeted by a dingy looking room with posters plastered to the walls and a vacant stare from the chef sitting inside. Umm.. Awkward..
We return at half past 8 after whetting our appetites at Der Raum in Richmond. Under the cover of night, Movida undergoes an immense transformation. Soft lighting and rich wood panelling set a moody scene. We're seated at a long booth that divides the dining room floor. A few large tables look like they're finishing up as we settle into our seats and the second sitting begins.
It's a full house tonight and our waiter is friendly enough if not a little rushed off his feet. He takes our order without pen and paper which of course ends up being completely botched. The wrong wine is poured, rabbit is mistakenly placed at our table and the Valencian salad never arrives.
Two types of bread come out first. They're served with a little side of olive oil that has a really pungent, peppery kick. I like it. Confit salt cod is next and quite frankly forgettable. It's dusted with a little paprika, alongside a smear of lemon "emulsion" with a single fried parsley leaf on top.
Tigre is another matter entirely. Spring Bay mussels are stuffed into croquettes and deep-fried. The subtle flavour of the sea combined with the velvet soft filling and crisp coating of fried breadcrumbs provide the perfect medium to match with a sharp tangy lemon aioli and the meaty flavours of dried chorizo.
The specials tonight include cured tuna with goat's curd and almonds. It sounds appealing but the tuna is overly salty and the dish lacks lustre. Thinly sliced, air-dried Wagyu follows. The waiter suggests we pierce the poached egg and combine it with the "truffle foam" that surrounds it before digging in. The foam is rich and creamy but instead of bathing in that familiar earthy musk, my olfactory sensors are overwhelmed by the distinctively pungent odour of artificial truffle oil, and again, the cured meat is way too salty.
Thanks to the truffle oil, my taste buds are now defunct and the pulpo with fried potatoes I'm chewing on seems fairly bland. A chef I'm dining with loves the bombas. They're seriously large croquetas filled with creamy potato and spicy chorizo sausage. The chilli and ground spices give the mojo quite a kick but I'm not a fan of the harsh acidity present.
Caballa ahumado is the dish I'm looking forward to the most. Transparent slices of smoked mackerel line the plate. A quenelle of gazpacho sorbet is perched in the middle amidst a drizzle of sauce, reduction and sprinkling of pine nuts. The plating has as much visual appeal as a 5-year-old's finger painting and unfortunately it doesn't taste much better. The fish has a deep and enticingly smoky flavour but yep you guessed it. It's too fucking salty. The reduction that is drizzled over the sorbet is too intense for enjoyment and when it comes to overall balance, the dish is left seriously wanting.
The special of roast partridge is cooked perfectly. If good food is like sex on a plate, then this is definitely it. The breast is sliced and fanned so that the delicate pink flesh sits exposed. Crushed hazelnuts trail down the side, paper-thin rings of raw eschallot are scattered about. A burst of sweetness, a mild tang, smooth, creamy, crunchy, mmm.
For the first time in my life dessert doesn't hold any interest for me. A companion orders flan con pestiños so I try a little. The flan is beautiful. It's just set, not too eggy, and doused in caramel. Someone needs a little more practice turning them out though, as one side looks a little sad. I'm nothing short of confused by the pestiños. Pestiños that I've eaten are light and flaky, flavoured with lemon peel and anise, cooked in the deep-fryer until just golden and dipped into hot, runny honey. Is this supposed to be a modern twist on the traditional? Are they supposed to be stale, over-fried, dense fingers dredged in a copious amount of cinnamon sugar?
Spanish cuisine holds a special place in my heart but despite the cool setting and theatrics, Movida fails to evoke gastronomic bliss. Dinner ends and I'm left with an unordered glass of wine on the bill and the unsavoury taste of bitter disappointment on my lips. If I were to return, it would be with trepidation, as the Spanish say "tantear el terreno".