“The word MoVida is a saying adopted by the Spanish, based on a movie made in the 1970s,” starts Andy McMahon from his home in inner-city Melbourne. “It basically translates as ‘do what you want, be free to enjoy life.’”

It’s an apt title for the restaurant McMahon co-owns with Spanish-born chef Frank Camorra. In the four short years since the duo opened the doors of their first restaurant (they now have three under the umbrella company), MoVida has become a Melbourne institution. Renowned for impeccable service, taste and the freshest natural produce, it’s a restaurant that manages to fill its dining room night after night, despite Melbourne’s fickle weather. In 2008 the company leased the neighboring building, transforming it into an acclaimed and intimate sherry bar, MoVida Next Door. One year later they launched the third installment in the MoVida empire, with the openings of MoVida Aqui and MoVida Terraza. While McMahon is humble about his success, he concedes that the inclination to some day open and manage a restaurant was always within him. “I suppose hospitality is in my blood. My grandmother was a successful publican and owned and managed a Melbourne pub at a time when few women were involved in business, let alone in this industry,” admits McMahon. “My family lived in her hotel when my father joined the business, and during my university years I made my living working across Melbourne’s pubs, bars and restaurants.” After being in academia, McMahon gave in to his impulses, and quit his Uni degree to honor his trade in his father’s pub. It was during this period that McMahon and Camorra first met, with the latter taking over the lease in his father’s kitchen. “Frank had just returned from a holiday in Spain, and we decided we should open the best Spanish restaurant in Melbourne. At the time all the Spanish places were terrible; bad food, bad produce, tourist traps. We wanted to create something that showed Melbourne what Spanish food could really be like.”

Staying true to its Spanish and Australian roots, MoVida’s charm comes from the quality of produce and Frank’s expert fusion of fresh foods. Says McMahon, “I think what makes any restaurant strong is a warm greeting, great food, great booze, value for money, clever service and an interesting dining space.” According to many Australian food critics, MoVida delivers on all points. In addition to a spectacular collection of Spanish reds, signature dishes—such as the anchovy fillet on a thin crouton with caper berries and a smoked tomato sorbet, or the Wagu beef air-cured with truffle foam and a poached egg—ensure that customers return night after night.

1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne, VIC,

– Fiona Killackey