Our Wandering Palate Melbourne correspondent, Matthew Wilson, seeks refuge in the Spanish oasis Movida Aqui, in the culinary desert of Melbourne’s ‘Beirut’ Quarter.
Now working in the Beirut end of town, the relative lack of dining options is quickly apparent – “Beirut” being the 80’s/ 90’s colloquialism for the part of the Melbourne CBD west of Queen Street – and unfortunately it is still somewhat relevant today. Despite the docklands development, strip clubs and derro pubs still tend to outweigh tasty destinations.
Frank Camorra revitalised Spanish food in Melbourne when he opened Movida in Hosier Lane in 2003 – tapas, rioja, dim lights, tunes, jamon, priorat …
“In 1975 Spanish dictator Franco died. After decades of his regime there suddenly erupted a spontaneous Spanish movement of art, film, music and fun, energetic youthful exuberance. This movement was called “MoVida”. We embrace the spirit, the fun, the essence of the great bars of Spain. We cook the food of our home country using Spanish techniques, both traditional and modern, constantly acknowledging that we are in the heart of Melbourne.”
Subsequently, Movida Acqui “our big place” was opened behind 500 Bourke Street, overlooking the Supreme Court dome. A bigger kitchen , a fire pit, outdoor dining and a larger space brings more options to food, wine and dining.
With some folk in town from Sydney and a very pleasant 25 degrees … it was very appropriate to sit outdoors at Movida Acqui, rather than under the milk crates. The Sydneysiders were besides themselves having had no summer at all.
We begin our lunch with a cleansing glass of cerveza – Moritz Lager – the beer of Barcelona … clean, crisp, nicely bitter hops and pale gold with a narrow white foam; it went superbly with Bocadillo de Calamares (a calamari sandwich with basque guindilla and mayonnaise), succulent and tender calamari strings delicately melt the mayo and are cut through with picante green chilli’s – mouth-watering stuff and the perfect beer accompaniment.
Then we move to Anchoa, a signature dish of Movida, hand-filleted Cantabrian artisan anchovy on a thin crouton with smoked tomato sorbet; a juxtaposition of salt, ice, sweet tomato and crouton crunch.
A bottle of wine is called for and I select a 2006 Priorat Maius - a 40:40:20 blend of cabernet sauvignon, garnacha and carinena – bright red cherry fruit, dry tannin, interesting minerality and light wood balance show the terroir of south facing licorella slate and limestone 500m above sea level.
You can’t go Spanish without a plate of jamon, this time it was Paletilla Iberico (‘carrasco’ DO, guijuelo iberico front leg) almost see through the ham melts away with sweet nuttiness, a touch of honey and creamy fat.
Now to the heavier dishes…
Bomba - catalan potato bombs filled with chorizo – crispy fried skin, soft fluffy potato jazzed up with spicy fruity chorizo; very moreish.
Butifarra – house made catalan pork sausage with chickpeas and house made morcilla – great rich flavours here, classic pork fattiness is cut through with pepper and pimiento verde, nutty chick peas and some iodine from the blood sausage; super wine match.
Spatchcock special – roasted spatchcock with pureed red peppers and chilli’s, white beans and garlic potato mash, crispy well spiced skin and delicate moist gamey flesh combine well with the peppers and chillis, while the mash importantly soaks up the birds roasting juices.
The three mains (raciones) were well partnered by some side (verduras), Setas (braised pine mushrooms cooked in white wine) and Espinacas (sautéed spinach and chickpeas).
Nearly drunk with food and looking for a sneaky afternoon kip, we still couldn’t go past Churros con chocolate crisp feather light elongated donuts with thick rich and milky chocolate sauce are divine.
Movida shines in Melbourne , as does the showcase for forest and swine.