Co-owners Frank Camorra and Andy McMahon decided many years ago that Sydney would be a great city for MoVida, although it has a distinctly different feel to Melbourne. We looked at dozens of spaces before this one came up. From start to finish, the refurbishment took 12 months, opening in late 2012. We needed to be finished far enough before Christmas for it to be meaningful. Part of our brief was that when you walk in, it had to be a slice of Melbourne—MoVida style. MoVida is a family and like any family, there are some common characteristics and yet each individual has their own distinct personality.
“The site at MoVida Sydney was originally a restaurant—that’s a pretty important factor on deciding on a space because you can build upon the existing facilities and kitchen, and it dramatically cuts down on the fit-out cost.
“When I started working on the design, the space was closely associated with the previous restaurant. Despite this, we decided to keep the bones, particularly the brick walls that look fantastic, and build from there. There was also a polished concrete floor that we roughed up a bit to make it more non-slip.
“While it was great to have an existing kitchen as a starting point, about halfway through the design process, I realised there was actually nothing left of the original kitchen! Nevertheless, it’s still a saving because you don’t have to change the layout too much. There were also a lot of big-ticket items that were already in place so that saved a lot of money.
“When reworking the kitchen it was important to inject a sense of theatre. There was a really small bar but since that’s so important for MoVida, we built a new, larger version. Now the bar—which has big heavy steel shelving—and the kitchen work together as the real focus point of the restaurant.
“The blackwood timber in the interior is one of the family characteristics of MoVida. One of the new elements we’ve tried out are booths—a stylistic offshoot of the banquette in the original Melbourne restaurant.The overriding concern with the lighting was to create an intimate social experience. We went for the same terracotta lights we have in MoVida Next Door—great Spanish pendants hanging on a piece of old chain. We’ve also added school-house lights that fit in beautifully and, fortunately, are still in production.
“A new element for MoVida was the openable windows; it means the whole restaurant opens out to the footpath and engages with the public realm in a lively way. This concept complements the MoVida style—a Spanish dining ambience that works both inside and out. It’s ephemeral, it’s informal, you can go in for a quick bite and a drink before a show or you can happily settle in for the long haul.”