Sunday, July 17, 2011


Nothing makes a Wednesday like an invite to MoVida.  Especially when it’s an invite to attend with Frank Camarro’s tour co-ordinator and two long-term MoVida fans, who started back in the day when you could wander in on a Saturday night and actually get a seat: imagine! After the menu kept side-tracking my companions into reminiscing about various Spanish bars, restaurants and wineries, not to mention previous MoVida nights, we gave up and decided on a happy abandonment of our evening into the hands of the staff.  This openness to experience seems to be a common factor in my best-ever foodie nights – somehow, when I control the menu, I’m just not as adventurous.

Being omnivorous, curious, and possibly a bit gluttonous, I love tapas because you get to try everything! Anchovies and tomato sorbet on croutons.  Spicy smoked chicken escabache on brioche. Chorizo and octopus.  Smoked mackerel and pine nut gazpacho sorbet. Battered anchovies and pimientos de padrĂ³n (russian roulette peppers - mild yet tasty, except for every approximately-fifth one, which is incredibly hot).  Quail eggs wrapped in black pudding. Oven-roasted portobello mushrooms finished with PX.

This is also why I love groups: more people = more things to try. The above were all brilliant; you’d think with so many dishes (and that’s not all of them – somewhere in there were scallops as well) there’d be one that I didn’t love, or didn’t quite work, or didn’t have its plate licked clean. Nope. All amazing combinations of flavour and texture which I would happily eat again, and could probably write up in excruciating detail, but I’ve saved that for the two dishes that will drag me back, come what may: the MoVida signature air-dried Wagyu with poached egg and truffle foam, and pan-seared quail breasts with fried bread and grapes.

The Wagyu dish looks, smells and tastes much, much better than something so potentially pretentious should – it’s basically fancy sliced beef and eggs, but when you think about how good steak and eggs are, a fancy version that works is the ideal, is it not? It was one of those dishes that leaves you with an intense sense memory: warm slippery egg, tiny bubbles of foam, smoky dirty truffle haunting the back of the palate, and the strength and unctuousness of the Wagyu holding it together and filling it out at the same time.

The quail appeared quite simple: miniature marylands, cool grapes and crunchy fried bread, a combination of simple flavours well-cooked or wisely left alone. The surprise came underneath: shreds of some dark, moist meat with a rich, slightly sweet flavour.  After various guesses (all wrong!) and vain attempts to remember the menu, we were informed that it was the rest of the quail meat, cooked in Pedro Ximenez. Things should absolutely be cooked in PX more often: its complexity made the meat almost gamey, especially up against the cleaner flavour of the pan-seared quail breasts with delicious crispy skin, and the grapes bursting against the oily, crunchy fried bread. Being way more of an eating (*cough* and occasionally drinking, and even more occasionally writing) foodie than a cooking foodie, it’s reasonably rare that I think ‘I really need to try this at home’, but cooking meat in PX is one of those rarities. It's a sign of how good it was that I'm prepared to cook with PX rather than drink it. 

Speaking of drinking, we had some red wine, too, which is apparently much cheaper in Spain and which, in a really big sign of how good the food was, I can't tell you much about except that it was good, and we had a couple of bottles of it.

Coming soon eventually: Cutler and Co, Longrain, breakfast at Cumulus Inc and lots - and lots - of cocktails. I should have time to write about them, since I've used all my cash going to them!