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MoVida fiesta

We'd best be clear about this from the start: the recipes in our December issue's MoVida food feature are not a thoroughly traditional Spanish Christmas menu. One of the first things Frank Camorra mentioned when we started talking Christmas Español was whole boiled red cabbage. It makes sense in wintertime in Madrid, he said, but - like the braises and other seriously gutsy, fortifying dishes served in December in Spain - it probably wouldn't win too many friends Down Under. "So I've picked some dishes that are classic, but also things that I like to eat in summer, whether it's at Christmas or entertaining," he says. "They're dishes that make for a great way to have fun at the table, because you're sharing all the food and it's tactile, and it's easy to prepare, too."

Given that the MoVida brand's success is more or less based on the idea of flexibility and accessibility, underpinned by a certain Spanish finesse, it clicks. We're talking to Camorra and his business partner Andy McMahon at the latest expansion of that brand, its first outside Victoria - MoVida Sydney, on Holt Street in Surry Hills. It opened in October to packed services, and demand has scarcely let up since.

"We've enjoyed a stack of Sydneysiders coming down over the years and beating down the doors," says McMahon. "When we kicked off here in Sydney we wanted to provide an experience that was very much like the original restaurant: intimate, warm, fun, accessible." Sydney, in other words, already had a taste for the MoVida magic - all it needed was a venue.

"We didn't want to reinvent the wheel," says Camorra. "You go and see a band you really love, and if they don't play their hits, then you're pretty disappointed. We're still evolving, we're still doing new records, and the food will change - the climate's different up here, and maybe people will expect slightly different things - but generally it's going to be what people want."

And what of Christmas Day back home? A classic Christmas Day at McMahon's house, he says, would involve lots of Champagne, lots of seafood, laughs, tears, the occasional fistfight. "It's great fun, that Irish way of life - putting on a lot and seeing where the day takes you."

Camorra, meanwhile, says that for him and his partner, Vanessa Hodge, it's now about rediscovering Christmas through the eyes of their two young children and making time for family. "We like to have people outside, a bit of fun, keep the food very simple. As Andy said, it's about where the day takes you. And there's a nap involved there somewhere."

MoVida Sydney, 50 Holt St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 8964 7642

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