From Melbourne to Auckland, MoVida’s anchovy and tomato sorbet tapas. Photo/Babiche Martens
Melbourne tapas legend Frank Camorra has opened a MoVida outpost in Auckland. Canvas magazine’s food critic Kim Knight delivers her verdict.
In their own words: “MoVida Auckland will celebrate the best season possible in New Zealand
produce to showcase and celebrate Spanish culture and culinary flavors.”
First impressions: So! A lot! Bedroom! My lasting pre-pandemic memory of the original MoVida Melbourne is a cheek-to-cheek affair where tapas from the next table could easily be mistaken for your tapas. No risk in the former Ostro space of Britomart’s Seafarers Building. Step out of the dark elevator and into a light-filled dining room with huge windows looking out over Waitematā. If you can only book a high chair, don’t worry – the stools have backs and the tables are sturdy.
In the kitchen: Josh Shields (ex-Ostro) is the head chef but on my two recent visits founding owner and chef Frank Camorra had come over from Oz and was scrutinizing every plate.
On the floor: The MoVida team operates like a well-oiled (olive) machine. Fun, friendly and knowledgeable, the floor staff were quick with our food – and even quicker with removing empty plates. If you’re craving another dollop of the verdant tarragon sauce that accompanies your mackerel and jamon skewers, don’t delay.
The menu: Plan several visits, because it is impossible to do justice to all these tapas AND the paella especially when you also want the raciones, and in particular the broccoli, the oyster mushrooms (with a raw egg yolk and small straws of potato ). Also, braised tripe because we told you it’s the chef’s mother’s recipe and who doesn’t love chef’s mother’s cooking? A note about these tapas: they are priced by the portion and, structurally, they are not really designed to be shared. The signature smoked tomato sorbet with a single sultry anchovy is served on a “crouton” so thin that if you held it up to the light, you could still see a shipping container. To be consumed preferably in a minimum of cold, crispy and salty bites.
Best Bite #1: The pāua tasted like a rock pool warmed by a driftwood barbecue. The crawfish croquette was deliciously decadent crawfish. A calamari sandwich, hot with jalapeno, is surely destined to become Auckland’s next big (little) slider thing. I liked them all, but none as much as the tartare. Layers of wasabi almond crackers, juicy, tongue-in-cheek beef with pickled kohlrabi created something utterly transcendent. Sleek and raw; Espana in one bite.
Best Bite #2: Think Jerusalem artichoke. Roast whole and split in half, the inside scooped out and mashed with (I think?) pork fat, which is then put back into that roasted shell, topped with salmon roe, sprinkled with something dry and of green, then balanced on a square of patterned paper evoking Moorish tiles, themselves placed on a round of wood the size of a coaster. The alcachofa is $12 a piece, but at what price is happiness? Order two and make all that work worth the chef.
The jury is still out: Tripe is one of the few cuts of cow that my mother never cooked. With no oral memory to draw on, its flabby, spongy texture shocks me every time. MoVida’s tripe is braised with sherry, chorizo, and chickpeas, but I still felt like I was chewing on a dishcloth. With my apologies to Mr. Camorra’s mother, I am not converted.
On the side: No one in their right mind orders a trough of rice as a “side”, but tapas and raciones are so appealing that paella ends up being considered an afterthought. “Arroz al horno” featured a separate tender duck and a big change in texture between rice and chickpeas (the homemade sausage, unfortunately, tasted like it was added late, rather than infused into the process). The baked rice is delicious, but we definitely ordered too many tapas to do this huge dish justice.
Dessert: On our first night, we ran out of time; on the second, we ran out of space. The less – or more – greedy can consider churros, flan and a Basque tart topped with candied kūmara and served with buffalo curd ice cream.
Perfect for: Tapas for two; paella for the full complement of friends and whānau.
How much: Tapas, $8 to $24 each; shareable raciones (patatas bravas, lamb backstrap, braised beef cheek et al) $14-$45; paella $90-$105.
MoVida Auckland, Level 2, 52 Tyler St, Auckland CBD. Telephone (09) 302 9888
by Yvonne Lorkin
You might want to invest in one of these grip braces, do some bicep curls, and hoist a few kettle bells before you book MoVida. Why? Because when you’re handed the nine-page drink list, it’s going to be very embarrassing if you’re not strong enough to hold it.
For starters, there are 17 impressive wines by the glass, ranging from an aromatic petit albarino at $14 to a flute of Veuve Cliquot rosé at $36.
All wines are listed next to their region or appellation. Therefore, browsing the list of drinks is a great way to get an idea of the large number of regions in Spain where great wines are produced. So if you didn’t know your rioja (ree-oh-hah) from your Ribera del Duero or your Rias Baixas (ree-ass-by-shass) from your Bierzo (be-ear-tho) or Barcelona (bar-theh -lone-ah) then this list is a great place to start. Add Penedes (pay-nay-dez), Jerez (hair-eth) Jumilla (who-me-ah), Valdeorras and Catalunya and it’s party time.
In addition to the sections for sparkling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, rosé, orange wine, riesling, pinots (grey, grigio, black and white), reds, sherry and sweet wine, the list to the bottle immerses you in Spanish favorite varietals like mencia (men-thea), tempranillo (temp-ran-ee-yo) or garnatxa (gar-nutch-ah).
Do you think choosing a gin and tonic is easy? MoVida offers 15 combos. Plus, there are numerous cocktails, 25 whiskeys and single malts and more aperitifs, brandies, digestives, bitters and liqueurs than you can shake a sombrero. Magic.