Where: 50 Holt Street, Surry Hills 2010
Opening Hours: Mon 5pm - late, Tue - Fri 12pm - late, Sat 5pm - late
Phone: 02 8964 7642
One could comfortably centre a review of MoVida Sydney on how it compares to its older and outrageously successful eponymous siblings in Melbourne. Owner and famed chef, Frank Camorra, is undoubtedly aware that such will be the case with many critiques of his latest venture. And yes, it is inevitable that at some point, this review will make reference to Camorra's well-packaged Spanish tapas empire in our rival city, but in no way will it rest weight on the taboo question: 'Is MoVida Sydney really just as good as those in Melbourne?'. I leave that debate to social commentators who will take pleasure in exhausting the topic.
I give MoVida Sydney individual merit for a number of reasons. Firstly for its integrity. And this integrity seems, interesting enough, to draw heavily on Melbourne imports (and there's the reference). Camorra's Sydney addition is run by an almost entirely Melbourne crew, for now. Most importantly, Frank himself is knocking about the pans and for this I say thank you, because to me it confirms the honour of getting things right rather than relying on name.
Secondly, modesty. MoVida Sydney is not trying to be something it's not. Sure, the team bring with them the spirit of the original MoVida, but there's no in-your-face 'we started in Melbourne' banter slipping through the cracks. MoVida Sydney puts on a spread of serious tapas and relaxed fun within its Holt Street pad without stating the obvious. We all know the MoVida empire started in Melbourne folks, but let's just leave it at that because this place can certainly hold its own.
Enough with the justifications. I welcome you to MoVida Sydney, a 90 seat bar de tapas y vino; the newest kid on the Hills' block.
It's 9pm when we're seated. The room is drenched in a warm haze from dim lighting, not a slice of silence. High-top tables line the windows and groups are bunked down in wooden banquette-style booths. Couples are perched at the bar and an open kitchen takes centre stage. The place is packed. I'm optimistic atmosphere will grow as the joint transitions from newbie to well-oiled tapas-making machine.
We start with jamon Serrano (50g for $17), manchego custard with burnt onion and truffle consume ($7.50 each) and the goat's curd and quince cigar ($5 each) tapas (single portions). An indulgent way to awaken the buds and prep the stomach for the onslaught of Camorra's raciones (plates to share) to come. Our tipple of choice is a 2009 Bodegas Ponce 'Pino' Bobal Manchuela, Spain ($99 bottle), an expressive drop characterised by a rich mineral texture, dark cherry and blackberry nose with spiced notes. We overlooked the fact that the first bottle was corked as the second was bang on.
Our second round comprised air cured wagyu beef with truffle foam and a poached egg ($18), crispy pigs ears with guindillas ($12) and charcoal grilled asparagus with Romesco sauce ($15). The beef, sitting under the gooey goodness of the poached egg you've just cracked, offers a silky texture with an interestingly sweet finish. A standout dish, the beef unifies serious meat with a playful aesthetic. The pigs ears actually look like pigs ears. Crusty pigs ears. Don't let this put you off, however, because they're actually damn tasty. The asparagus? Satisfyingly crisp.
For dessert, please don't go past the churros con chocolate ($12.50), doughnuts with rich drinking chocolate, for a quintessentially Spanish finish. Alternatively indulge the flan ($14) — creme caramel served with pestinos — or the Tarta Santiago ($14.50), an almond fondant with fig ice cream. Match this with the 2011 Gramona 'Frisant de Gel' Gewurztraminer Penedes, Spain ($14), think lychee, white peach notes with high acidity and a refreshing sweetness, or the Toro Albala Cream ($11) with notes of salted caramel, peanuts and nectarine with a velvety palate, and you're in serious business.
For all the hype surrounding the opening of MoVida Sydney, the Camorrians have stood strong. With integrity, modesty and well-mastered tapas, MoVida injects additional buzz into the Hills' Holt Street traps. I congratulate the team, but tell them this: I want to dine in a bedlam of convivial madness, for being frenetic can only enrich your charm. Let us experience your great wildness to allow an unconditional celebration of your feat.
*Please be aware that MoVida Sydney's menu is subject to change without notice.
Photos by Madeline Milani.
By Lisa Omagari
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