We had dinner at First last night and had one of the most enjoyable meals I've had out for a long time. It's a small restaurant, simply but nicely decorated in quite a modern style. There was a live keyboard player playing a variety of vaguely Christmas-ey tunes, which wasn't really my cup of tea, but I guess that sort of thing is probably popular with the average English holidaymaker in thensouth of Spain, so I can't really fault them for that.
The service was friendly, genuine and exactly the right level of attentiveness. It was my other half's birthday, and they gave us all a free glass of cava - and even remembered that it was actually the day before, because we'd tried to book then but the restaurant is closed on Mondays. Her main came out with a miniature roman candle in the corner, which was a nice touch as well.
The wine list is a little bit on the pricey side, particularly for Spain. A 2006 Enate Tempranillo/Cabernet Crianza was about €25, which is a lot considering you can buy the 2007 for about £6.50 even in the UK! On the other hand, it's a lovely wine with a decent amount of bottle age, and we all enjoyed it very much. None of the reds on the list was more than about €30, and it's a well chosen list of decent wines. In general I'd rather have good but nonetheless affordable wines at a steeper markup than a bland list of mediocre stuff that has been selected to fill a series of standard price-points.
The food was excellent. It was well-presented and interesting without being pretentious, and there was good attention to detail throughout - everything on the plate was well-prepared and fitted with the dish. Portions were a good size as well - generous without being overwhelming (to a European taste, at any rate). Rump steaks "a la brulee" with mushrooms were succulent and rich in flavour, and cooked exactly as asked. The meat is obviously of good quality: in exchange for the extra flavour of rump one often ends with a little stringiness of texture, but there was none of that here. The fillet with red wine chocolate sauce was also superb; both flavours were well balanced and really contributed to the overall effect, and the meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender. The desserts were imaginative and extremely well prepared as well - particularly the baked strawberries stuffed with marzipan - delicious!
I also liked the fact that half-portions were available all the way through - not so surprising perhaps in the land of "media racion", but unusual for a restaurant of this sort, and particularly unusual to be able to have the option even for the desserts. In fact the only thing I can really quibble with in regards to the food is possibly the prices. It's the same story as with the wine, really. For a small restaurant on the outskirts of Nerja which isn't really going for the traditional "grand dining" experience - I'd call it funky rather than grand - the fact that almost all of the mains were in the €18-23 euro bracket makes it seem, relatively speaking, quite pricey. But the thing is, we all walked out of the restaurant with smiles 10 feet wide. I can't remember the last time I felt as satisfied in every sense by a restaurant experience. We'd felt genuinely welcomed, everyone enjoyed their food and wine immensely, and whatever the theoretical reservations about the prices, we didn't for a moment begrudge paying them by the time the bill turned up.
In summary, if you're looking for a really good meal in Nerja, and don't mind paying a bit extra for the privilege, Restaurant First is an excellent choice.
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