Let the good times roll as Trade Secrets heads to Melbourne institution MoVida. If you don’t know it already, I don’t really know what to tell you. We hang out with co-owner Andy McMahon, who despite being a mad Collingwood fan is an otherwise decent bloke.
So you’re one of the owners with Frank?
Yeah, Frank (Cammora). So Frank and I started this, yeah, we were together at a pub in west Melbourne for about three years, down in a pub on Spencer Street called the Karen, and then it came time to selling that and we looked at each other and had a bit of a cult following and thought, let’s do something together – erm, and a few other guys went their own way and we came in here together, 2003…
Is it really that long?
Yeah man, I know. Do you want a drink?
CAPI! The bubs.
That’s not the table 12 leftover that we’re reselling?
No, no, I only just opened the bottle. [laughs]
So, I feel like you get to a point in your thirteen years where you institutionalise? Is it fair to say that you feel like you’ve hit that point?
Yes and no? We’ve been together a long, long, time and it works, you know. We look to do other projects as well, just to keep ourselves fresh. We couldn’t relaunch the brand if we needed to or anything like that too dramatically, it just wouldn’t make any sense for the punters.
So how long’s MoVida Next Door been around for?
Next Door happened about five years, I reckon, after we started here, so call it 2008? It was a shitty little milk bar, little sandwich joint, that we used to get a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich from every there every now and then.It came out that the bloke was keen to get out and go. We thought we’d be holding people in there having a drink and some oysters and then coming in here for dinner – but then people wanted to stay there. It’s probably a better reflection of a true tapas bar than in here anyway.
I think it’s amazing to see all the people that come in and out, you obviously have pretty good staff retention to date.
Yeah, we’re pretty humble in our personalities. It was never meant to be the beast it was, it was a small restaurant with a front-of-house staff of six or seven people and likewise in the kitchen. And now we’ve got 140 people working for us.
We’ve tried to keep that mentality of if you work here, you’re one of the fam. If you’re in a jam or a pickle and you need a loan, we’re happy to do it. Happy to sit here and have a few drinks with you after service. We look after people fairly, and I think people reward us by being here for a long time, and doing a great job for the entirety of their time at MoVida.
Does Frank get interviewed five times more than you do?
Yes, at least.
Does that make you angry?
Not at all.
Not at all. You’re okay with it?
I’m happy in the background. It’s his heritage, he’s the chef. [laughs] People don’t come into the restaurant to be dazzled by the waiter, they come in for the food. I understand my place in the pecking order. And I certainly don’t crave limelight, it’s not my bag, baby.
So, any plans? Sydney, you probably wouldn’t call a failure… Well, what would you call it?
Look, I probably thought it was going to be there a lot longer than it was. I think if year one, two, three were counted it was popular, it was crazy, it was probably just a victim of a couple of different things. I think the location that we chose in the end probably wasn’t right for the time. If we had a crack at it again we’d probably be in a different location than we were. Also, I’d say the Sydney market is very different to Melbourne.
There’s not a lot of people nailing it all that successfully then, they’re very different beasts, aren’t they?
They’re very different beasts. Here in the CBD where all our restaurants are, it’s so easy for people to try new places, to get around. It’s four blocks, it’s relatively flat, you jump on a tram. Up there, to get from Balmaine to Darlinghurst is just a nightmare. People don’t do it. So by default, all these restaurants become destination-only places, people don’t just drop in to bistros. And with our business model, you need that constant turnover.
So what else would you do if you weren’t doing this?
I did a little bit of graphic and artwork and design stuff like that; I’d still like to do that maybe one day. My family’s into a lot of gaming and races so I’d probably be like a few of my cousins and end up in that game as a bookmaker or something.
So, approach them, right?
Yeah, they’ve gone on the gates!
This is still a gamble though, alright? [laughs]
Of course it’s a gamble!
Just different shit
Everything’s a gamble.
True. So what’s your knock-off? What’s your go-to?
Oh, look, I’m Catholic Irish background, I like a beer, try and get past about three beers before I get home, just to deal with the kids, make it a little bit easier. [laughs]
And just quickly, what are we eating?
This one here is smoked eel, celery remoulade, and a little bit of dried jamon. And then a little duck liver pate which is always good.
Plenty to get into then, gotta be done!
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