Movida Aqui is a sublime Spanish restaurant that continues to captivate. With its warm and convivial atmosphere, incredible cuisine, engaging service and overall charm, it is a standout dining experience in Melbourne. As a hatted restaurant it ticks many boxes. As a relative to the high profile Movida in Hosier Lane, Movida Aqui keeps the same standard of excellence.
Movida Aqui is a modern spacious restaurant in the heart of the CBD. (The people that work around here have some awesome culinary options.) It has large windows and is light and airy but at night there is a different intimate atmosphere.
The kitchen/bar with colourful upturned milk crates holds centre stage and the ambience is also driven by a busy restaurant with loud conversation and the charm of Spanish posters/artwork.
The driving force behind Movida Aqui and the Movida restaurants is Frank Comorra, who is one of Melbourne's most dynamic and creative chefs.
The website explains that the larger kitchen enables Movida Aqui to do things that can restrict it in a smaller kitchen of other venues - such as preparation of the paella.
Venturing into Movida Aqui one evening with my American friends, we were placed on one of the large group tables. With a group of 9 of us we found Movida Aqui to be a great option to cater for a larger group and the classy but slightly casual ambience meant that its conducive to families.
My dining partners are well seasoned foodies that have tasted the best from around the world so expectation was high. Movida Aqui didn't disappoint.
The dishes here are essentially to share and are some of the best tapas in the country. Some of the tapas are small and suitable for one or two people but there are larger dishes that can feed several people, notably the paellas. You need to give the staff 30 minutes or so to cook up the paellas.
Everything on the menu looked amazing so it was difficult to choose.
The Olives are a no brainer - different types of superb Spanish olives to get us going. Also some bread with oil.
The Bombas looked spectacular and were also a great option for the children. These were so tasty and were like a croquette. We all had one of these Catalan potato bombs filled with chorizo. The creaminess of the potato was excellent to contrast against the crispy outside. And the hit of chorizo was brilliant, flavours infusing through the potato. The bomba is bliss.
The Jerusalem Artichoke and organic egg tortillas were absolutely delicious and surprised. The flavours were intense and it was actually quite rich.
Next the Mejillones Mussels were incredible. My friends have tasted mussells all over the world and commented that these were spectacular. Mussels can often get lost in a saucy mess or become too dry. These were jumbo mussells that were so tender and wonderfully treated with a simple combination of fino, lemon and parsley.
The NT Barramundi was a special on the night and we all agreed this was also spectacular.
Earlier in the night as I was making my way to Movia Aqui I had run into one of Melbourne's sharpest businesswomen who was coming from a meeting in a nearby office. After telling her I was going to Movida Aqui she had two words to say, "Beef cheek!"
The Carrillera De Buey, Slowly braised beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree was memorable. The intensity of flavours took me by surprise. The meat was still the hero but the flavours infused in that meat were magnificent. And the meat was cooked to perfection just tender and coming easily apart. Possibly the highlight of our experience, but there were many.
Another great surprise was a Calamari sandwich. Humble concept but brilliantly executed. There was a generous amount of superbly cooked and slightly crispy calamari. We had to order more.
Then came the paella. You can order a small or larger version. The smaller one still feeds about four people and comes in a large pan.
Having agonised over seafood v non-seafood we went for the paella with Pork sausage, chicken, duck and chickpeas. It was a triumph. The slow cooked sofrito set the base and the flavours were so intense for every mouthful of paella.
Desserts were also a highlight. The Flan was superb with creme caramel and pestinos. That caramel sauce is exceptional.
Of course we had to order the Spanish doughnuts, basically churros, which came fresh, warm, with sugar and a bowl of quality rich chocolate sauce. A pleaser with broad appeal.
Can I say the coffee here is also top notch. It compares with the excellent coffee houses around the city. My long mac was exceptional.
It was also great that the staff responded to my wife's birthday with this candle.
The wine list is also excellent with a good variety and choice of Australian and European Wines. We went for Spanish wine to fit the theme.
Service here was also exceptional. From the moment you walk in the front of house makes you welcome. And the staff here are engaging and take the time to explain how it all works and provide recommendations. I felt the service was first class and consistent with a hatted restaurant.
A great question to ask in Melbourne is "What is your favourite Movida?" There is alot of loyalty and passion for the original Movida in Hosier Lane. The verdict here was that Movida Aqui is an exceptional restaurant that delivers on all fronts. My American friends were also impressed. One of the great restaurants of Melbourne.