Restaurant Review: You Can Now Finally Get Into MoVida

By Jesse Mulligan
The cured wagyu at Auckland's MoVida. Photo / Babiche Martens


Cuisine: Modern Spanish

Address: 52 Tyler St, Britomart

Phone: (09) 302 9888

Drinks: Fully licensed

Reservations: Accepted

From the menu: Anchovy tapa $8ea; lobster croquetta $8ea; potato bomba $9ea; beef tartare $10ea; oyster mushrooms $28; asparagus salad $18; lamb backstrap $45.

Six months before my first trip to Melbourne,

Chefs dream of creating a restaurant so famous that it’s almost impossible to get in, serving dishes so iconic that even the people who can’t get a table still know what they would have ordered if they’d made it inside.

MoVida’s Frank Camorra is a chef for whom that dream has come true, and fortunately for us he’s chosen to bring it to Auckland, pairing his unique (well, it was unique until everyone started imitating it) style of Spanish food to the taonga of New Zealand cuisine: pāua and crayfish, most obviously, but also clams and kingfish and no doubt whatever other seaborne critter is unlucky enough to take the bait.

Chef Frank has teamed up with Savor (Azabu, Amano, and Ostro before they dismantled it and moved in Movida), presumably one of the few local restaurant groups that could plan and execute at the scale required to make this work.

The anchovy tapas. Photo / Babiche Martens
The anchovy tapas. Photo / Babiche Martens

But for now, Frank easy to spot with his salt and pepper beard is in town and at the pass, re-wiping a plate when it is not gleaming sufficiently, allowing himself a chuckle when one of the Auckland chefs proudly puts a carefully balanced tapa in front of him and it falls over on its side.

At some stage he’ll return to Australia, which will be the real test, but for now nothing comes out that isn’t perfect and you get the strong impression that everyone around him is learning fast.

Before you get as far as the food you should make time for a drink on the other side of the room, in a bar branded Non Solo Pizza, mystifyingly, where they serve a good range of cocktails in comfy surrounds.

My wife Victoria arrived earlier than me and was having such a good time she almost looked disappointed when I showed up, though her analysis of the chilli margarita “as close as I’ve ever tasted to your ones” was clearly designed to make me feel valued.

I drank a blood orange and tequila combo that went down very easily but I was craving a cold dry sherry, available only from the restaurant side of the room, and the best possible wine match for this sort of food.

While Ostro was light and glassy, MoVida is warm and comfortable with red leather everywhere and a big wooden bar built into the middle of the room. There are a lot of staff and they are all very busy, walking briskly (and in one case jogging) around the large room.

"While Ostro was light and glassy, MoVida is warm and comfortable — with red leather everywhere and a big wooden bar built into the middle of the room." Photo / Babiche Martens
"While Ostro was light and glassy, MoVida is warm and comfortable — with red leather everywhere and a big wooden bar built into the middle of the room." Photo / Babiche Martens

I was spotted early and got the full restaurant critic treatment, but to be fair to them they weren’t obsessed with having their top person hog our table other waiters came and went and all of them had the knowledge and confidence to answer questions and pick favourites from the menu if required.

We were told that each tapa was only enough for one but this didn’t turn out to be true, and if there was one downer it was that the amount we ate early on rather ruined us for what was to come.

Like, crumbed croquettes filled with leek and lobster great! But they were the size of chocolate eclairs and we could have done one between two, if not four of us, and been just as happy.

The sliders were big enough to share too, though I would have had difficulty giving any of mine away.

Restaurants tend to be locked into serving calamari a particular way but here they take squid rings as just a starting point, frying them then chopping them into pieces and stuffing them into a roll with mayonnaise and fragments of pickled jalapeno.

They're served on ciabatta with a little more chew than the classic Depot slider, but it works with the squid, which needs a little tooth-work as well.

I created a major diplomatic incident when I tried to share Victoria’s beautiful beef tartare, which really is just a bite or two, with cured egg on top and a horseradish cracker so fiery it sears through the rest of the mouthful.

Wagyu beef tartare. Photo / Babiche Martens
Wagyu beef tartare. Photo / Babiche Martens

From the bigger plates, order the aged wagyu, a spectacular piece of performance art where the bright, paper-thin slices of beef around the edge of the dish are folded in front of you to create a sort of edible mandala featuring, in the centre, truffled potato foam and a stirrable soft-poached egg.

Save room for what might be the city’s best lamb dish juicy medallions of backstrap with Moorish spices rubbed into the surface and tiny slivers of fat crisped up under the grill, served with silky eggplant and salty egg roe.

But hey, don’t miss the oyster mushrooms with a vinegary tang of oloroso sherry, crunchy potato chips for texture (once again egg yolk is used as a simple, rich dressing here).

And there’s the raw asparagus salad with stracciatella which okay look, I think to get through this menu you’re going to have to make two reservations: one with a rowdy group of friends, and another with someone you love enough to share your deepest hopes and fears, if not your beef tartare.

More To Eat In Britomart

Dumplings, sublime seafood and an underground kitchen.

Britomart’s Andalusian Restaurant Has Become A Byword For Perfection. The restaurant serves dishes with sun-ripened fruit and a taste of fire.

The Britomart Bar Serving Funky Cocktails, Lovely Dumplings. This rebranded downtown dumpling bar offers golden wontons and an ample wine list.

Britomart’s Kingi Has Found The Boldness Of Its Vision. The restaurant celebrating the terroir of our oceans delivers on all fronts.

Britomart’s Underground Restaurant Ghost Street Is Worth DiscoveringVenture below street level to the exceptionally good Ghost Street.

Unlock this article and all our Viva Premium content by subscribing to 

Share this article: