Frank Camorra tells the story of how MoVida started
“It was only 2002 when my partner, Vanessa, and I set up shop in a 1970’s pub on the fringe of Melbourne. I had long finished my apprenticeship and had come back from a year cooking in Spanish kitchens. We started out serving the usual entrée-main-dessert formula. I was frightened people wouldn’t get Spanish food; tapas had already earned a bad name after a series of poorly executed tapas bars in Melbourne during the 1990s. A top food consultant even told me I was mad to open a Spanish restaurant as no one liked the food. Our first guest was a vet. He came back with his son-in-law, a young man from Madrid. He looked up from his plate of morcilla and simply nodded and smiled. Trust me – Spanish people rarely compliment you. That was gold.
We trundled along for a while but we weren’t setting the world on fire. We were busy and we were working the bar staff hard. Andy Mac, my business partner to this day, started back then with me with nothing more than a loose gentleman’s agreement. He took the bar takings and I took the kitchen’s. Back then he was a kid who had the hospitality experience of a teenager. Sure he had eaten in the best restaurants in the country but he still couldn’t polish a glass – which was a bit of a worry as we were bringing in a new type of customer who was keeping him busy, the type of person who expected a new glass when they switched from white wine to red.
Andy was funny but more importantly, he could make people laugh with him, so we weren’t too worried about him.
But something was wrong. Vanessa, a straight shooter, looked at me with her ‘what the f**k are you doing?’ eyes and said, “just do what feels right. Don’t try and meet other people’s expectations”. That was what I wanted to hear. We tore up the menus and put on tapas and raciones and went for broke. We’ve never looked back. Andy Mac just kept on laughing and helped make everything we did fun. You can do that in a pub. You can stuff up a little bit and get away with it because it’s just a pub. We had an absolute ball – and the ball has just kept rolling. That sense of relaxed fun is something we take everywhere with us. Life’s too important to take seriously.”
When we opened the doors to Movida in Hosier lane in 2003 no one knew what to expect. Here was this little bar on a graffiti covered cobbled lane near the cathedral serving Spanish tapas and shared plates in a down lit room playing funky tunes.
It’s the kind of place you can come in for a beer and a jamón croquetta at the bar and then move across to a table and share a plate of slow braised lamb, some patatas a lo pobre and down some seriously good Spanish red wine.
MoVida Next Door
Next Door is our little Jerez bar next to MoVida. Every night, MoVida Next Door is pumping. Fish and shellfish are displayed on crushed ice and are cooked to order. In a few minutes a plate of sizzling prawns or calamari from the plancha is in front of you. Order a glass of chilled sherry and you could imagine you’re on the Atlantic cost of Andalusia. But you’re not, you’re in Melbourne, in a little bar looking out onto the icons of Melbourne: The MCG; Federation Square and the graffiti of Hosier Lane.
MoVida Aqui is our big space by the dome of the Supreme Court that gives us the chance to cook the food from Spain we never could in our other kitchens – paellas, made with slow-cooked sofrito, chorizo and mussels. At the heart of MoVida Aqui is our charcoal grill. It’s an out dated style of cooking that the Spanish have never given up, but it’s part of who we are. Next to that is a brand-new sous-vide water bath. Ancient, traditional and modern, side-by-side in our kitchen. This is the essence that we try to capture at MoVida Aqui – a mix of the old with the new.
It’s a big, happy space, flooded with light with little nooks and special spaces.
Large groups are welcome and we are available for functions.
Bar Pulpo is our offshoot restaurant at Tullamarine Airport. It’s here that you can get a quick feed of freshly shucked oysters paired with a glass of sherry or some tapas washed down with a Spanish tempranillo before you fly. It’s delicious food made from well-sourced ingredients that reflects the same values that you find in our other restaurants.
MoVida opened in early October 2012 on Holt Street, Surry Hills to much anticipation. Focusing on capturing the essence of MoVida in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane, the menu incorporates the classics as well as adapting to it’s new Sydney home. Frank has brought members of the original MoVida crew – James Campbell and Andy Jacoora who are running the kitchen and front of house respectively. After less than twelve months of opening, MoVida Sydney was awarded two hats by The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide 2014.