Chef Josean Alija
# 55 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2016
Visited: October 15th, 2016 – Lunch Service
Nerua is a restaurant that far surpassed any dining expectations I have. The husband and I were both blown away by the quality of food and the perfect execution of service. It was definitely one of my most memorable gastronomic experiences of 2016.
Nerua is located in the beautiful Basque Country of Bilbao, Spain. Situated right next to the world renowned Guggenheim museum. Both the restaurant and the museum produce exquisite art, I just happened to enjoy the delicious art pieces at Nerua more than the museum!
Under the vision of Chef Josean Alija, Nerua opened in 2011. The same year, Nerua deservedly gained 1* Michelin rating. In 2015, Nerua gained a spot on The World’s 50 Best restaurant list. I first heard of this restaurant when they were featured in Cross Cultures, a intercultural food platform by one of my fellow The World’s 50 Best Tastemaker, Cheryl Tiu. Team Nerua visited my motherlands, the Philippines, and did a collaborative dinner at Restaurant Gallery Vask in Manila. Next thing I knew, I was planning a stop at Bilbao to eat at Nerua!
The restaurant offers 8-course, 14-course and 25-course tasting menus. We opted for the 14-course tasting menu along with an “alcohol-free” pairing. It was our first time opting for an alcohol-free pairing option with any tasting menus we have had in the past and we were very impressed in how the juices and extracts harmonized with the food.
As soon as we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by the lovely receptionist who took us right into the kitchen for a tour. In the kitchen, we were welcomed by Chef Iñaki who prepared our first bites right in front of us.
Pairings of Colourful Essences
For our tasting menu, we opted for the Alcohol-free pairings which were colourful essences made from fruits, vegetables and herbs. We were very impressed by how each “essence” harmonized with every dish that it was paired with.
Nerua epitomizes minimalism and finesse in the way Chef Josean Alija creates and presents his food. Our overall experience at this restaurant definitely took us by surprise of how impressive everything was.
The main ingredient in every dish stood out beautifully. Chef Alija showed discipline and mastery of self-control by respecting the purity and flavours of the ingredients. The concepts of this restaurant were all about minimalist approach, harkening back to traditions, and the outmost reverence to the basics. It was very humbling to witness this approach especially in these modern times of over-complicated platings and heavy manipulation of food in other restaurants. Less is truly more at Nerua, and it was admirable, inspiring, and monumental.
Team Nerua knows service, and they do it exceptionally well. From the moment we walked in, we immediately felt a welcoming and warm ambience. Also, I want to mention that our main hosts, Joserra and Stefania, delivered a stellar, attentive, and friendly service at the table side. Every dish were explained to us, as well as our Essences pairings. I also want to point out that this was the first restaurant that I have ever visited where the cutleries were warmed, another example on the team’s keen attention to details.
Our experience at Nerua was one of our most memorable dining experiences of 2016. We will definitely come back to this restaurant the next time we are in Bilbao, hopefully soon!
And, if you ever find yourself in the beautiful city of Bilbao, eating at Nerua is a definite must!
Abandoibarra Etorbidea, 2, 48009 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain