Frank Camorra tells the story of how MoVida started
He returned to Australia with the aim of opening a Spanish bar and restaurant that was true to Spanish tradition but was accessible to the modern Australian dining public. His first thought was to call the new restaurant ‘Butifarra’ after the famed Catalan sausage. Instead he opted for the name ‘MoVida’, the term given to the flourishing art, music and cultural explosion that occurred in Spain after the death of Dictator Franco in 1975.
MoVida Bar de Tapas y Vinos opened in the 1970s Carron Tavern on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD in 2002 to critical acclaim. Frank and his team turned their back on the traditional entrée, main, and dessert style of service and presented a Spanish menu of tapas and raciones leading the trend for shared plates in Melbourne.
MoVida was a hit and needed a new space. A run-down red sauce Italian café in a grotty bluestone laneway was transformed into the new MoVida in Hosier Lane in 2004. Momentum grew and within a few years MoVida was receiving accolades such as ‘Dish of the Year’ at The Age Good Food Guide awards for the ‘Cecina’ – a delicious dish of air-dried Wagyu with poached egg and truffle foam. It has become a classic and still sits on the menu today. That same year Frank, along with writing collaborator Richard Cornish, published MoVida, Spanish Culinary Adventures that was awarded Best Cookery Book by a Chef at the Australian Food Media Awards.
In 2008 Frank and his team renovated a corner milk bar on Flinders St and Hosier Lane into an Andalusian style sherry and seafood bar simply called MoVida Next Door. It was awarded the Don Levy Fitzpatrick Award for The Age Good Food Guide in 2010.
MoVida’s continuing excellence was met with Two Chef’s Hats from The Age Good Food Guide awards in 2009 with Frank winning the coveted Chef of The Year.
Frank also released his second cookbook MoVida Rustica that won awards in Australia and was later listed as one of the best cookbooks of 2010 by The New York Times.
Frank and the team opened MoVida Aqui later in 2009, a larger and more spacious restaurant under the shadow of the great copper dome of the Supreme Court at 500 Bourke St Melbourne. It was later awarded one Chef’s Hat by The Age Good Food Guide.
On the terrace outside MoVida Aqui is Paco’s Tacos, a Mexican café that opened in 2012. Another Paco’s Tacos opened at the new Eastland Shopping Centre in Ringwood in 2015.
For his outstanding work promoting Spanish cuisine and culture and Australia the Spanish government awarded Frank a Cruz de Oficial de la Orden del Mérito Civil in 2013.
Frank’s ties with Spain are strong and ongoing with Frank departing for Spain several times a year, often with a coterie of MoVida chefsm taking culinary education tours around Spain. He also leads groups of culinary tourists around Spain.
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.