Fine Dining

Josean Alija, the Top Chef Who Reduced the Menu Price to €90: "Fine Dining is for Everyone"

Alessandra Meldolesi
josean alija guida repsol

In response to inflation, chefs are divided on pricing strategies. While some have raised their menu prices to astronomical levels, Josean Alija of Bilbao's Nerua has chosen to lower it to €92, making his restaurant one of the best in terms of quality and affordability.

The news 

There is a lot of talk about ethics in the culinary world, yet top chefs don't seem overly concerned about their sanctuaries becoming the exclusive domain of the wealthiest 1% of society. It's as if ethics are solely about environmental sustainability and labor relations, with no consideration for inclusivity. An exception is the Basque chef Josean Alija, who, in his Nerua restaurant inside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, has been serving innovative and original cuisine for over twenty years, increasingly targeting not only the elite but also the middle class.

josean alija nerua
nerua bilbao

As reported by La Vanguardia, the current price of the tasting menu has been set at €92, which is practically a miracle for an internationally renowned Michelin-starred chef. "The concept of fine dining is changing: it needs to be made accessible and inclusive," he asserts. "I am satisfied with a decision that fits the times and allows us to move forward. It's easy to know if something is working: the restaurant is full, and people are willing to pay what you ask."

josean alija Perretxikos erizo y aldo de trigo tostado 1

"After the pandemic, it was clear that a significant change was coming, so when it ended, we took the opportunity to do something we had already planned and decided," he continued. This involved reducing the offering to a single, shorter, and more budget-friendly tasting menu that would also attract the local audience, with a focus on micro-seasonal dishes not found on the regular menu. "Something dynamic and informal, without losing the defining characteristics that have shaped us."

nerua josean alija

The result is even more streamlined and focused cuisine, staying true to the chef's historical minimalism, and even more rooted in Basque traditions, starting with pintxos that incorporate elements of popular cuisine, all the way to the cod, which feels at home here. "I've been thinking and acting the same way for twenty years; the product has always been the focal point, and technique is merely a way to give it a voice," he says about the trend toward seasonality and product-centric approaches that are now gaining traction everywhere.

josean alija Foie gras natural nabo blanco y menta naranja

He didn’t lack for opportunities; he also received attention from Dubai. But a place with more traditions and raw ingredients, like Japan, might tempt him. For now, his roots are firmly planted in the titanium of Frank Gehry. "Nerua is Bilbao; we are part of the heritage and DNA of this city."

Chef's cover photos: @Guida Repsol

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