Eat your way across the world with our Essex cafe and restaurant guide, spanning the best pizza, pasta, pies and fish and chips in the county.
Places to eat in Essex
All of Essex’s main towns can lay claim to being the county’s culinary capital, but we’d say that title currently lies with Chelmsford. From the classy sophistication of Italian restaurants Vita Bella and Olio Restaurant overlooking the River Can, to the fast and the bottomless pizza sessions at Moto Pizza and the brilliant pub grub at Galvin Green Man, it’s a town that knows a lot about good food. Perhaps the pick is Smith’s Restaurant, however, a few miles to the west of Chelmsford. A regional institution since 1958, it’s one of the leading seafood restaurants in the county, with a wide range of sustainably-sourced fish and plenty of alternatives.
Southend-on-Sea is another restaurant hot spot. Padrino is one of their leading Italian restaurants with a cracking beach-side location while Turkish Kitchinn to the north of Southend is a real hidden gem with bold Mediterranean flavours and friendly, fast service.
If you’re staying at one of our hotels in Colchester, we’d urge you to check out Grain and The Company Shed. Both of them occupy different ends of the restaurant spectrum. Grain is a seriously tasty proposition, with small plates big on flavour while The Company Shed to the south near West Mersea is an endearing BYOB seafood shack. The setting may be rustic and charming, but the fish is caught-that-day fresh, and the service is always friendly.
Perhaps the most creative and imaginative restaurant in Essex is The Magic Mushroom in Billericay. As the name implies, it’s an out-of-the-ordinary experience, with bold flavours and a mix of contemporary and traditional cooking styles. Now into its third decade, they’re open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, with the set menu options offering the best value-for-money.
Close by in Benfleet is another high-end dining option, Asperra Restaurant. The Mediterranean food is sublime, the dark-wood setting is cosy and intimate and the cocktail and wine lists are as good as they get.
Restaurants in Essex
With miles of gorgeous countryside, historic towns paved with cobbled streets and the longest coastline in the country, Essex is a goldmine for cafe-lovers.
If you’re staying at one of our hotels in Colchester, you’ll want to check out The Red Dog Cafe and The Little Book Cafe. The Red Dog Cafe to the south-west of the town centre is a dog-friendly converted pub open daily for breakfast, lunch and early dinner, plus a dedicated burger bar. Alternatively, head to The Little Book Cafe in the small village of Halstead, get lost in a book and tuck into their homemade breakfast, brunch and lunch options.
If afternoon tea is your thing, pay a visit to Mrs Salisbury’s Famous Tea Rooms near Chelmsford. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and a range of afternoon tea options, the Maldon cafe is decked out in bunting and everything you’d hope to find in a quintessential English tea room, including their delicious homemade cakes.
Those heading to Harwich to take the ferry to Hook of Holland should nip into the Rainbow Cafe beforehand. They live up to their motto of ‘fresh food and good coffee’ and even have an outdoor terrace perfect for a sundowner or glass of Prosecco.
For those staying at one of our hotels in Southend-on-Sea, Cafe Rebecca on the Western Esplanade is a classic English caff. Take your pick from the daily specials etched on the chalkboard or grab a drink on the pavement terrace overlooking the beach.
You’d be forgiven for walking right past Eat 17 in Bishop’s Stortford. It might look like a run-of-the-mill shop from the outside, but inside it’s a wonderful independent shop, deli and small cafe, with an in-house street food market dishing up classic American hotdogs, Japanese katsu and fried chicken.