Thursday marked 12 years since Cindy and I went on our first date (to this shockingly romantic documentary about the Munich Olympic killings) and we decided to go somewhere fancy to celebrate. Given we made this decision on Monday we weren't confident of getting a booking anywhere flash, so settled instead on one of the pioneers of the no-bookings scene, MoVida Next Door. We visited the original MoVida a few years back and found it pretty enjoyable, so we had high hopes for its popular little offshoot.
Turning up at 7:30 we were, of course, unable to waltz into a table. Still, it only took ten minutes or so loitering at the bar with some delicious gin & tonics for things to open up for us on the other side of the bar. The amount of gin and tonic left in Cindy's glass below is some indication of how brief the wait was (although it must be said, the glass just out of shot to the left is substantially emptier).
Things got started with some hefty chunks of bread and a little pot of very impressive olive oil for dunking. While we chewed our way through the crusts, we sussed out our options. The menu doesn't have quite the vego range of MoVida proper (no poor man's potatoes! Woe!) but there were still more than enough for us to cobble together a pretty excellent meal. Very few (if any) of them were vegan, but Carla seems to have had some luck in the past, so it probably wouldn't hurt to ask.
We started with the one vego option on the massively long specials board: the tortilla ($3.50), a Spanish omelette stuffed with potato and onion. It was lovely and creamy, and Cindy's initial decision to give it a miss was soon overturned.
Next up were my favourite dish of the night: the fried croquetta of wild mushrooms ($4 each). The only downside to them was the temperature they came out at - eating them was a balance between just wanting to stuff these crispy-fried balls of earthy mushroomy goodness in your mouth and avoiding the inevitable tongue burns from too much enthusiasm. I ordered an extra one while we were pondering the dessert menu later in the meal, but still didn't quite let it cool down enough.
Hot on the heels of the croquetta came the berenjenas (eggplant chips with salmorejo, $12.50).
These were like lightly tempura-ed slivers of eggplant, with a chewy skin and meltingly soft innards, all coated in oily crispy goodness. The sauce was a creamy tomato-based mix, which provided a bit of a different flavour to dip the chips in but wasn't otherwise particularly memorable.
The next two dishes came out together - firstly, the big plate of ensalada (apples, iceberg lettuce, Spanish onion, hazelnut with salmojero dressing, $11.50). Huh, I only just realised that the salad dressing was based on the same flavours as the eggplant sauce (it turns out salmorejo is a tomato and bread based soup!).
I really liked this - apples and red onions are a winning flavour combination (which reminds me, it must be time to make this again soon) and the dressing was salty and creamy in all the right proportions. Added health bonus: nothing on this plate was deep-fried!
Alongside the salad were these two little piquilo peppers, stuffed with pisto manchego and topped with aioli ($4.50 each).
After making the inevitable mess trying to manoeuvre one of them onto my plate, I happily chomped my 'deconstructed' version down. The salty cheese and sweet pepper were beautifully offset by the strong roasted garlic flavour coming through in the aoili. They packed a lot of flavour, and two would have been too many, but one was more or less perfect.
We'd been eyeing off the dessert menu all night, and were in complete agreement about the two dishes we wanted to split: the chocolate marquise and the tarta de queso. Sadly, there was some misunderstanding, and we ended up with churros ($12) instead of the marquise - neither of us cared enough to rectify things, and we consoled ourselves with perfectly crunchy doughnut sticks and a rich chocolate sauce (both of us ended up scooping the chocolate out in spoonfuls once the churros themselves had disappeared).
The tarta de queso came out as expected (goat's milk cheesecake with rhubarb sorbet, $13.50) and was just as good as I'd imagined.
The cheesecake was an intriguing disc of mushy goodness, with a nice, tart cheesiness to it. The texture came from the strip of breadcrumbs laid down the middle of the dish, while the rhubarb sorbet was tangy and smooth. I happily picked away at the cheesecake piece at my end of the dish - it went well with the other components, but was a highlight even on its own.
Movida Next Door is a tight little space - after sizing it up, Cindy and I reckon that the staff have as much room in their combined kitchen/bar area as the customers all cosied up around the bar and a mix of communal and small tables. Despite our mix-up on the dessert, we were very impressed by the service - they work the crowded room efficiently and effectively, never leaving you alone for too long but not stopping by so often as to be annoying. Everything came out quickly, and you really had the feeling that this was a place where everyone knew what they were doing - it was a well-oiled machine. It's also pretty good value - we walked out of there well satisfied by how much we'd eaten, and only about $120 down (including four drinks). Definitely one to add to your lists.
Only Carla seems to have blogged Movida Next Door from a veg*n perspective. Otherwise it gets rave after rave after rave - see: Mademoiselle Mange a Sydney, The Hungry Excavator, Sir and M'lady Dine Out, spicy icecream, Sweet and Sour Fork, Food Food K, JENIUS, Mel: Hot or Not, Kish and Co, eatshowandtell, Seasons of Life, A Food Story, Brave Bird Fly, Hold the Peas, Tasting Melbourne, Miss Adriennely, multicultural melbourne, Fork, Knife and Chopsticks, Off the spork, A Daily Obsession, Ooh, Look, The Food Blog, juganaut's foodie thoughts, Apple in a Bun, Eating Melbourne, Melbourne Dining Experiences, Wayfaring Chocolate, food, glorious food, CW's Food & Travel, EATspeak, The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, melbourne gastronome, consuming design, Are you Hungary?, choieevon, Food Sailor, The Empty Fridge, Demitasse Demi-sel, here comes the food, My Food Odyssey, GreenTeaSpoon, I Ate it All, doublecooked, I just ate it, Barley Blog, The Learner Chef, Life in a Bottle and tubbymasu.
There are just a couple of more negative opinions out there - Food Fable didn't think MND was great value for money while Eat (almost) Anything at Least Once found the service disappointing.
Movida Next Door
1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne
veg dishes $4-12.50
Accessibility: Terrible. I'll leave it to Chekoala to summarise all the ways that Movida Next Door falls short here.