Since the very lamented closure of Momo in Melbourne’s Grand Hyatt hotel, the culinary scene here has been without one of its finest exponents of middle-eastern cuisine, Greg Malouf. When an opportunity arose to sample a collaboration between Malouf and the Spanish whiz Frank Camorra, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband jumped at it.

While Malouf is now based in Dubai (after a short-lived stint at Petersham Nurseries just outside London, replacing the Michelin-starred Skye Gyngell) and his new restaurant there due to open very soon, Camorra’s Australian empire continues to grow and flourish with the MoVida brand leveraged by the very solid airport cafe Bar Pulpo and, just behind the venue for this dinner, Paco’s Tacos.

Greedy Girl has eaten at a great many of both chef’s venues so the prospect of a Spanish/Lebanese fusion was entirely enticing. The venue was MoVida Aqui, a light, bright and airy casual eatery heading down the western end of the CBD. Greeted by a glass of El Maestro Sierra Fino sherry from Jerez, we enjoyed the early evening heat and contemplated what was to come.

The dinner was a bit of a leap of faith; there were no choices, no dietary requirements would be catered to and, initially, there was no menu. Greedy Girl faced an evening of surreptitiously typing into her iPhone until a friendly waiter emerged with a list, bless him.

Sitting on bar stools and enjoying the company of Tim from Books for Cooks, who did a steady trade of selling several Malouf recipe tomes throughout the evening, we settled in, with the sun at our backs and girded ourselves for a power of food.

Maybe it’s something about middle-eastern cuisine. Even though Momo was a fine dining establishment, the servings there were enormous. And so again was the case last night. Having fallen upon the two platters of nibbles while we were waiting to take our seats, we were well primed.

Pittwater oysters, merguez sausage

Pittwater oysters, merguez sausage



The Pittwater oysters (top) were topped with merguez sausage and a tomato vinaigrette, while the bastourma (above, an air dried cut of beef topside) was stuffed with goat’s cheese and rocket. Both yummy. Gluttonous husband commented he enjoyed the pairing of sausage with the oyster but 99 per cent of the time would always prefer his oysters au naturel.

First up, accompanied by a very pleasant Apolonia Verdejo from Spain (very similar to a sauvignon blanc, our waiter opined), we tucked into young vegetables, a labneh with cucumber and tarragon (and mint) with ‘Jou jou’ bread, an incredibly light pita and one of Malouf’s specialties. This was very moreish. The labneh was perfect and provided really the first among many surprises for Greedy Girl throughout the evening, given she doesn’t really like mint in savoury dishes and couldn’t remember the last time she enjoyed a glass of sauvignon blanc. It went amazingly well with the dish.

young vegetables, labneh, 'Jou jou' bread

Young vegetables, labneh, ‘Jou jou’ bread

Next up was Malouf’s salmon, which is cured in ‘fragrant’ salt and served ‘tarator style’ (see the picture at the top of this blog for the chefs serving up the slabs of salmon into small plates, Frank Camorra at left and Malouf at right). This was so, so good. Greedy Girl usually doesn’t eat cooked salmon but she made an exception for something as delightful as this. The fish is served at room temperature and topped with coriander, a hint of chilli, tahini and yoghurt dressing and yummy chopped walnuts. It was so delicious, here’s a link to Malouf preparing it on the SBS website.

Salmon tarator style

Salmon tarator style

We then moved to quail with saffron, fenugreek (which gave off the most intoxicating aroma) and organic chickpeas.

quail with saffron

Quail with saffron

These were just the ‘starters’. Greedy Girl’s belly had already started to groan.

And so to the main courses. First up was ‘the fish doctor’s stew’ with waxy potatoes, black pepper, lemon rind and mint. It was served with the prettiest salad Greedy Girl has ever seen. The fish, mainly snapper, was a slight let down. There were lots of bones to be careful about and Greedy Girl was looking for more seasoning. The potatoes and sauce though were delish. The salad, described as ‘Persian style with barberries’ was tasty and refreshing.

the fish doctor's stew

The fish doctor’s stew

Persian style salad with barberries

Persian style salad with barberries

Next up was slow roasted Baharat lamb shoulder on smouldering hay. The chefs spent considerable time in the kitchen setting fire to piles of hay.

Baharat lamb shoulder

Making hay without the sun shining

This was tender perfection, served with ‘Sultan’s eggplant delight’. Gluttonous husband fell on the lamb, devouring its soft meat. Greedy Girl enjoyed it too but was most taken by the lovely take on baba ganoush. Both the fish and lamb were accompanied by a red, Jimenez Landi ‘Bajondillo’ Garancha from Mentrida. Noted wine critic Jancis Robinson is a fan of its lightness and roundness. Greedy Girl enjoyed it but wasn’t moved to rave. All palates exist in this Foodie World!

Baharat lamb shoulder

Baharat lamb shoulder

'Sultan's eggplant delight'

‘Sultan’s eggplant delight’

Finally, we were treated to a dessert plate featuring a burnt honey and yoghurt panna cotta with flower water and carmelised peach topped with Persian fairy floss. This was served with an orange baklava, little specks of Turkish delight mixed in with chopped nuts and a chocolate cream. Our waiter tried to tell us this was an example of fusion, remarking that the chocolate almost made the baklava a bit like churros. Greedy Girl is not sure whether she agrees with that assessment although the baklava was utterly delicious. The panna cotta is not one of her preferred sweets and it was a little bitter for her tastes. This dish was paired with an Espelt Moscatell from Emporda.

burnt honey and yoghurt panna cotta

Burnt honey and yoghurt panna cotta

Waddling and tired, we headed for the exit. Gluttonous husband was well satisfied – about 18 months ago he’d been lucky enough to attend Malouf’s masterclass that was run as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. We’re still in love with the kibbeh he learned to make there.

Sadly, it’s a rare treat now to see Malouf cooking in Australia although he tends to pop up for guest appearances in front of various stoves. Greedy Girl hasn’t really ever considered going to Dubai. She may have to change that opinion.

MoVida Aqui

NAB building, 500 Bourke Street, Melbourne

MoVida Aqui Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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