Yeah Easy star is fine, I'd have gone for a Bix 3 personally but if others are recommending the easystar, then they'll have knowledge specific to it, so it makes sense.
Definitely wasn't suggesting the Phoenix for a first plane (it was mine, i crashed it right off the bat and bought a bix 3 to learn on first). I really really regret getting the 1600 version, it's fine slope soaring with it (preferable in some cases) but the short wings are utterly fucking useless for thermalling, which is such a nice relaxing thing to do in an evening.
Make sure you check out the Flite Test channel on youtube, their content is really useful, and the plane builds are great fun. Their mini arrow is fucking awesome fun for low level HOLY SHIT YOU NEARLY HIT THAT TREE flight, and it sounds obnoxious as fuck with it's tiny motor. Can't wait until my flying mates build theirs and we can FPV around chasing and crashing each other.
Don't dismiss cheap planes either, you can learn a whole lot quicker on something you don't care about dinging into the ground at high speed. Some of the best fun I've had has been with planes that cost < £20.