I love Melbourne, there is such a good vibe here. I could live here, I could definitely cope with the vibrant foodie scene and the artistic and creative sensibility that flavours this city. It’s a fascinating combination of easy, relaxed, yet passionate and creative.
After a long day of thinking, problem solving and brainstorming I am keen to turn the brain off. Something to eat and drink and a good night’s sleep is in order. A few nibbles and a little glass of somethin somethin is what I feel like …..mmmm tapas?
Frank Camorra’s MoVida is the answer, it’s close by, In a colourful laneway, splashed with vibrant street art – love love love. I have a nice little corner spot at the bar and I’m not really ready to think about eating yet so start with an aperitif – a beautifully dry and surprisingly refreshing Spanish sherry – Romate ‘Perdido’ Fino En Rama Jerez.
The menu has me vacillating – tapas or larger plates? All of the options are wonderfully intriguing. Not a pot of potato and chorizo in sight, this menu is filled with fresh modern Spanish dishes that leave my imagination working overtime. There is only one way to find out what’s good – eat it. I decide to concentrate on the tapas side of the menu, lots of little tastes you see!
Rebecca zips from one end of the bar to the other taking drink and food orders. She runs me through the specials and all I hear is blah blah blah Oysters…blah blah blah. And so that’s where I decide to start.
Two oysters arrive – ice cold, natural with a pretty pink vinaigrette very lightly dressing them. Slurped of the shell and chased with a sip of this gorgeous dry sherry; it’s a magic combination of salty briny cold – so refreshing – a perfect start.
The best thing and the worst thing about tapas is that you don’t order your entire meal up front. It’s great because I can just see how I feel and wander to the next enticing selection. It is also kind of dangerous because I can just see how I feel and wander to the next enticing selection…mmmmmmm.
No need to rush to the next bite – I just enjoy sipping my sherry and feeling the place out. The energy here is a fantastic mix of vibrant and chill. It’s noisy chatty lively but in such a relaxed way. There are people at the bar enjoying a casual evening of drinks and a few nibbles and tables filled with diners here for the full extravaganza.
I’m not the only solo diner tonight, throughout the evening there are several snacks for one visitors that come and go and the bar is just perfect for that.
The staff are all fun and energetic and on their game. I’m fascinated watching Rebecca work, she takes food and drink orders – remembers everyone’s drinks, a quick wave “ same again?” keeps the bar area clean and tidy; all with a very easy happy energy.
I order my next tapa – Manchego and spinach croqueta. Manchego or as it is known in my house “Man Jengo” which is my special interpretation (slip of the tongue). It’s one I have not managed to live down, my love seems to get great delight out of reminding me, every time we have some. It’s one of my favourite cheeses, earthy nutty and leaving a clean finish, I just love it. The little croqueta arrives – cooked to perfection it is hot crispy nutty and melty. I could happily order a dozen of these and just sit here munching on them. So so good!
I have moved on to a glass of 2015 Forjas del Salnes “Leirana” Alberino Rias Baixas and happily relax without needing to order more food just yet. I am enjoying reading the menu and it is incredibly difficult to narrow down any kind of a choice. Then a quiet whisper over my shoulder makes me jump “mackerel”.
A lovely chap has spotted my confusion and indecision and has thrown me a lifeline. “ The Mackerel is to die for” – one of the restaurants favourites. This waiter is confident and exuberant so I’m in – let’s do this thing!
Canals Ahumada – house cold smoked Spanish mackerel with pine nut gazpacho sorbet Mmmm a subtle enticing smoky fragrance announces the arrival of a little black oval pot. The waiter lifts the lid releasing delicate wisps of smoke. The olfactory system goes off, ping ping ping! Wow – inside the little wee pot are two thin slivers of mackerel topped with a cool refreshing pine nut gazpacho sorbet. Seriously amazing. The sorbet is outrageous, such a surprise, I wasn’t expecting it to be smoky but the combination of cool refreshing creaminess and deeply smoky flavours is the perfect foil for the mackerel. Mackerel can be an oily fishy fish but this dish is anything but. A little crunch from scattered pine nuts and tiny coriander leaves add a fragrant punch.
Still contemplating the last bite the next one arrives. I do love the whole lots of little tastes thing. So now Queso – whipped goats milk cheese quince paste wrapped around brick pastry. A tiny dark plum coloured tube is placed before me. The first question is where is the pastry? I cut (or try to anyway) the little tube in two. It’s just a bit too big for a one bite job. It is lovely and crisp, the pastry discovered hiding under the quince paste outer cover. The filling of whipped goats milk is creamy and earthy – the whole thing wonderfully delicious.
I’m having a lovely time. I think what I like is the surprise, the menu sneaks up on you, you wouldn’t quite guess what you are in for from the simple description on the menu.
I enjoy a little bit of a people watch. The chap next to me makes me laugh with his intense interrogation of the wine list and the over exuberant glass swirling, slurpy swishy aeration of his tasting of his grenache recommended by Rebecca. “I usually like a carbinay sooving yong but this is ok!” He orders half a dozen Tapa all at once. Muches em down while staring at his phone and is done and dusted before I can blink. I on the other hand am enjoying an easy paced relaxing meal.
I peruse the menu for another snack but I can’t make up my mind – it all looks so good. Rebecca saves me, she suggests Mejillone – marinated spring bay mussel with whipped cod roe on potato paper. And what a lovely plate – a long rectangle of paper thin crispy potato with a spectacularly marinated mussel and the creamy whipped cod roe is a lovely salty touch. Rebecca sums it up “Really fancy salt and vinegar chips“
She asks me where to next? All night I have been looking at the Jamon dish, thirty six month aged mmmmm but its on the mains menu …. “Let me talk to chef – I’m sure we can arrange a tapa size portion” Now I’m really excited – great meat raised and treated with care and love, aged to perfection. I am not disappointed, the Jamon arrives, boom boom boom! So so very good, salty and sweet, creamy smooth, elegant sweet yumminess. It comes with a tomato topped bread that is light and fresh, but frankly it feels like a sacrilege putting the jamon together with it. So I decide to honour the quality of this jamon and just enjoy the meat, so simple, so delicious. The little tomato toast an afterthought.
What a lovely way to finish a delightful evening. I watch quietly as the restaurant goes about its wind down for the evening. Clearing the last of tables, cleaning behind the bar, resetting tables. Staff relaxing chatting together finally relieved of being on.
I slip on my coat and head back to my hotel very happy, pondering possibilities for my own cooking and very satisfied.