MoVida Aqui is the recently opened, expanded version of Frank Camorra’s fabulous Spanish eatery, MoVida Bar de Tapas. While it’s virtually impossible to get a booking at the original MoVida these days, and there are two timed sittings in the evenings, things at MoVida Aqui are much more relaxed. The space is airy and light due to the row of louvres opening out onto an open courtyard, and while it’s still advisable to book ahead they don’t kick you out after your two hour allotment.
The space is lofty and not overtly Spanish, and I particularly liked the use of milk crates as a lighting feature over the bar and the uninterrupted view of the elegant camera of the Supreme Court. If you sit at the high tables you can watch the bustling team of a dozen chefs go about their business and salivate at the dishes presented on the counter. The service is attentive, friendly and efficient, with regular top ups of water, a steady stream of food and our request for more bread met promptly.
The modern tapas is very similar in execution and price to the original restaurant and I could have happily eaten 99% of the menu. We decided to start with individual serves of Cantabrian anchoa with a dollop of smoked tomato sorbet ($4.50) and sardines. The icy cold sorbet tempered the saltiness of the anchovies and capers perfectly and it was a taste sensation.
Next up was fleshy sardines with tomato ($4) and a bowl of Asadillo, a sunny mix of marinated roast capsicum and tomato in Moorish spices ($12) which was perfect draped over a slice of crusty bread with the juices running down your fingers.
Then a terracotta ramekin of Gambas sizzling in Basque apple cider ($17.50). This was a little too alcoholic for my liking but the sauce was delicious dipped with bread.
We tried one dish from the long list of specials – Conejo, rabbit breast rolled in jamon and served with clams and white cannellini beans ($20.50). The meat was just barely cooked and the flavours were quite delicate. Personally I preferred the more robust Arroz al Horno ($38), a huge paella pan of rice, artichokes, off-the-bone duck, spicy sausage and chickpeas. Don’t let the Grande portion size (serves 2-4 people) deceive you – I challenge two people to eat that much rice with chickpeas and still have room for other food. Note that MoVida doesn’t offer any rice dishes (the kitchen is too small) so yet another reason to visit MoVida Aqui instead.
I was bursting from the seams so with great regret had to decline dessert. My friends shared a flan con pestinos ($11), a solid and smooth creme caramel served with highly spiced sherry pastries.
We were all absolutely stuffed by the end of the delicious meal and with two Moritz lagers ($8 each) amazingly the bill came to only $35 a head. In the ultimate praise, my friends from Sydney declared the experience outstanding and I was suitably dazzled by the food and setting to want to come back again and again.