A victim of their own success?
Recently I posted on the front page about how much I've started to enjoy dining at the bars of various excellent restaurants around Melbourne. Cumulus Inc, Gingerboy, Coda, Longrain, the list goes on and reminds me of how lucky I am to live and work here. I can't say for sure, and I can't really be bothered doing the research, but I'm pretty sure that in the last few years there's been a metaphorical Tapas Explosion (TM); a spark of quality casual dining which probably started off being Spanish Tapas but evolved into the wide range of cuisines we see represented today. Assuming my metaphor is accurate, last week the Gourmet Wife and I visited the Cro-Magnon man of the Melbourne Tapas scene - Movida.
We'd been to both Movida Next Door and Movida Aqui, and wanted to try the original and the most famous of the family. I know it's the most famous because while Sarah and I waited for our seats to become available several people arrived with reservations which turned out to be for one of the others. At 5:30pm we were told to come back in 20 minutes where there would be a space at the bar for us. We did, but ended up waiting in the entrance way for another 15 minutes before we were shown to a table which was booked but where we could start with a drink before out space at the bar became open. I'm not sure if it's because they felt sorry for making us wait in the doorway for so long, or because we immediately ordered a $70 bottle of Tempranillo, but a couple of minutes later the front of house manager told us that we could stay at the table he'd arranged for us. So despite the wait, it ended up a bit of a win.
As if to hold up our end of the bargain, we decided to order quite a few dishes. But I suppose that's kind of the point, and everyone does that. Like all the other Movidas, there is a selection of small tastes and larger sharing plates. In no particular order we selected from the tapas:
- Croqueta ($4 each)
- Pollo Escabache Al Miguel ($4.50 each), a spiced chicken escabache on crisp crouton, these had a deliciously creamy mayonaise with a hint of spice.
- Gambas Con Romesco ($3.50 each), a prawn bite topped with a thick tomato sauce.
- Coredero al Chilindron ($4.50 each) - Wet roast lamb breast with fino and paprika sauce, wonderful full lamb flavour came through on these things
- Monte Y Mar ($7 each) - Calamari stuffed with pork with a squid ink dressing. The pork stuffing was kind of like a rillette, and the contrast between that texture and the squid was a great match. I tried to work out exactly what squid ink tastes like (if anything), but could only detect some balsamic in the dressing.
- Agridulce con Pato ($11.50 each)
- Slow cooked duck shank with hazlenuts, raisins and onions. The skin nice and crisp, the meat pink and juicy.
Then the "mains", or Raciones. We only ordered two of these, the Carrillera de Buey (beef cheek - $21.50), and while we considered the quail breasts ($16.50) when we were informed the specials included a partridge ($30) we decided to go for that instead. Having never eaten partridge (as far as I can recall) I didn't really know what to expect but assumed it'd sit somewhere in the quail/pigeon region of the gastronomic animal kingdom - turns out I was about right. It came with wilted spinnach and onions and was pretty damn good. But I think the beef cheek was a stand out of these two dishes, coming as it did on top of a Cauliflower puree. The puree was wonderful, and I would have called that a good dish on its own, but it coming as it did topped with slowly braised beef cheek (meltingly tender and deliciously beefy) it was an absolute winner.
As we were reaching the end of both the bottle of wine, and the limit of what our stomachs could reasonably handle, we decided to share one dessert of the Basque Tarte $12.50. This was a quince tarte with some flavour of ice-cream which escapes me as I write and I forgot to note down at the time. I DO remember that it tasted great and was a pretty good way to round off the meal.
And now to decode what I mean by the title of this review. I like walking up to a place like Movida and getting a spot at the bar and having a casual dinner. And there are a lot of places like Movida where you can do that, unfortunately Movida isn't one of them. Like I said, we got there at 5:30pm and still had to wait close to 45 minutes to get a spot; Movida knows this and to be fair to them they do say on their website that bookings are essential. But I remember last time I tried to book Movida there was a 6 week wait on a Saturday night. This is good for them, it means they're exceptionally popular, but this is not the style of meal I'm happy to wait 6 weeks for, 45 minutes was a stretch. This is NOT to say that the food isn't worth the wait, it is, but personally I don't find the style of dining to be worth the wait. This may still be a hangover of my own preferences for dining, if I have to book somewhere weeks in advance I'd rather it had white tableclothes and expensive glassware. If, on the other hand, I want to eat and share at a bar, I want to be able to walk up, sit down, and start eating. I enjoyed Movida, and I'd go back if I could, but chances are I'm much more likely to go back to any of the other places I've mentioned, even Movida Aqui, simply because I'm more likely to get in straight away. I can sum up my thoughts by introducing a new rule of thumb, I call it Lachie's Law of Casual Dining: "I have to book more than 24 hours in advance, a casual dinner isn't casual anymore."
Croqueta, Pollo Escabache Al Miguel, Gambas Con Romesco, Coredero al Chilindron, Monte Y Mar, Agridulce con Pato, Carrillera de Buey, Partridge special.
2009 Dehesa Gago Tempranillo