Nerja is a town with something magical about it; with its famous, spectacular views from the Balcón de Europa (Balcony of Europe), to its stylish, whitewashed pedestrianised streets and its many delightful coves. It tends to attract the more discerning tourist and plenty of wise foreigners who have chosen it as their new home, or as a get away during the colder winter months back home. Unlike many other spots on the Costa del Sol, Nerja somehow manages to embrace a diverse International community, whilst retaining its own many natural charms.
For the seasoned foodies out there, you can rest assured that Nerja is home to a wide range of excellent restaurants which keep the palates of its visitors and residents greatly satiated. In fact it is very difficult to choose the top restaurants in Nerja, as so many of them strike a healthy balance between price and quality. However having lived in Nerja for 3 years, I am going to select 5 top restaurants, each of which offers its own unique experience. Each of the 5 that I have chosen, I have dined in more than once, and in some cases on numerous occasions.
1. Restaurant Jacky – French Tasting Menu – A Real Foodie Experience
If you have an ear for languages and accents, one of the things that will strike you when you sit in Restaurant Jacky is that many of the customers are French or Belgian. As they say – eat where you see the locals eating. In Restaurant Jacky, many of the locals are from the land of the food served, as well as Nerjeños and of course some tourists.
What do they all have in common? They are enjoying a Michelin quality experience for a very fair price. There is an a la carte menu, with a good choice of dishes, plus a good wine list. Dishes are delicious and beautifully presented. It is good value for food of that standard, but not a cheap night out.
The best value is the Menu Degustación (Gastronomic Tasting Menu) which used to be advertised for the final weekend of the month, with tasting menus of up to 8 courses for as little as €28.00. The very first time we went to Restaurant Jacky for one of these, we both thought we had died and gone to heaven. The service is impeccable, and friendly. I love the fact that often when you enter you can see the chef, who is in his early 70s, in the kitchen, loving preparing food. By the way don’t be fooled by the word tasting, there is plenty of food between all of the courses.
An example of the Menu Degustación:
- Quail thigh
- Pumpkin soup
- Sea urchin
- Lobster with saffron
- Lemon sorbet
- Escalope of foie gras, served on a base of apple and old Port wine
- Filet mignon with Dauphanaise potatoes
- Chocolate soup/mousse with pineapple marinated in bacardi and orange ice cream and almonds
Calle Chaparil, Loc 6 (Edif. Corona)
2. Lan Sang – Wonderful Thai Food - Good Atmosphere
After initially moving to Nerja, I avoided going to Lan Sang for quite a while, as I feared being disappointed. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Each dish we had was perfect, flavoursome Thai food, nicely presented and served with a smile.
Lan Sang is in actual fact a Lao and Thai restaurant, with an excellent menu which explains how hot the various dishes are. Lao and Thai cooking results in sophisticated tastes, whilst using a variety of robust ingredients such as lemongrass and garlic. Culturally this food is eaten by groups, and typically a couple or group will choose a variety of dishes to share.
As the Lan Sang menu has a good choice of delicious dishes, eating this way is the best option. Try the Monkfish gap Curry Keaw – a green monkfish curry with sweet basil, coconut milk and vegetables or a Kae Gaeng Panaeng – a red chicken curry, which is thick and topped with kaffir leaves. These are only two examples of the dishes, and in the many times I dined there, anything I chose was excellent. There is a special set menu at lunch time, which is good value.
Calle Malaga 12
3. Amazonas Churrassqueria Brasileña – Eat As Much As You Can Brazilian Meat Fest
This is amazing value and is utter paraside for meat eaters! Early in 2012 this restaurant moved from a location that was too big, as well as not being that well situated, down to Plaza de los Cangrejos (Crabs Square – there used to be a crab factory there going way back). We used to be loyal customers in the first location, where the restaurant wasn’t doing anywhere near as well as it had could. We were delighted to see them becoming super busy in their new location.
Why? The guys are very friendly and fun, with a small bit of encouragement they’ll make more of a performance out of your meal, as they bring a variety of cuts of Brazilian meat on a skewer to your table. The food is really tasting, and the last time I was there the eat as much as you can menu was €12.95.
If you haven’t been to this type of restaurant before, be prepared. Pace yourself. At the beginning the waiters bring out a salad, chunky chips, black beans and rice, and banana fritters. Then soon after the meat starts coming out. As it is all very good, you need to eat at a slow, steady pace to that you’re not full by the time the best cuts arrive.
Want to enjoy a Brazilian cocktail, then order a caipirinha, a lovely, deceptively strong drink. Last time I had one it cost €4.00 at Amazonas.
The setting is also lovely here, as the restaurant is on a strip of nice eateries, with sea views.
Plaza de los Cangrejos
4. Restaurante La Teja – Typical, Tasty Spanish Food – Good Value/Price Ratio
There’s something reassuring about a restaurant that lets you see what’s happening in the kitchen. La Teja is co-owned by three friends, one of which is the head chef. It has a typical, elegant Andaluz charm and the food, in my experience, has been consistently great. At lunchtime there is a set menu for around €10 or a bit bit less, which is excellent value for money. It is well liked by the locals, so I won’t repeat myself and advise you to go where the locals go.
Inside the restaurant there is a fantastic collection of black and white photos of Nerja in the old times. La Teja is not city centre Nerja, so is often not as busy as it should be. It does have a loyal customer base who come regularly to the 4 star Riu Monica hotel, and is loved by people like me who have spent enough time in Nerja to discover it.
Some favourites are the clams, which are superb, the gambas pil-pil (prawns in spicy garlic sauce), the fish casserole, the lamb and the duck. But this only touches the surface.
There is a small amount of outdoor seating, which has partial sea views. Main courses are on average within the €9.00 to €14.00 price range. It combines typical food, which is of a high quality, with friendly service and a good value experience.
Calle del Mediterraneo
5. Chiringuito de Ayo – Ayos Is The Historical Paella Place In Nerja
Back in the ’80′s there was a TV series filmed in Nerja, called Verano Azul (Blue Summer) that somehow managed to pack a lot of life’s lessons into it, whilst being fun and showing lots of great Nerja locations. Ayo was in this, as was his restaurant.
Today Ayo himself is still here, you can’t miss him, as he is somewhat of a character. The restaurant is beside Burriana Beach, which is the biggest tourist beach and is difficult to get into at lunchtime on a summer Sunday. As many Spanish families eat from 2pm onwards, as a foreigner it is best to go to Ayos a bit earlier to be sure of a table. We have often wandered down there as early as 1.15pm to get one of the better tables closer to the beach.
It is famous as a paella restaurant, but it does serve lots of other dishes, notably amazing looking ribs. Friends of mine have had other dishes there and they all gave good reviews. I couldn’t resist the paella, which is one of the best I’ve tasted, if not the best, in the 10 years I’ve lived in Spain.
It costs a whopping €6.00 and you can get up and go up to the giant paella and ask for more. In fact it is worth a visit just to take a photo of this giant paella. So if you’re on a budget it is a great place to go. If your budget is not tight, consider the prawn cocktail, which in a generous helping of rather large prawns in a delicious cocktail sauce.
There are so many more restaurants in Nerja that deserve a mention, such as the 34 in Carabeo, the Calabaza which is town centre and is for a special night out, as well as the Sevillano, owned by the ever energetic Joaquin (who runs on Duracell I think) – he has one in the centre which is in two locations opposite each other, and one on Calle Chaparil, which is often jammed with locals having drinks and tapas.