When it comes to eating out, there’s never only one way in Essex…
Gorgeous riverside setting: check. 15th-Century architecture: check. Talented local chef with Michelin-starred-kitchen experience: check. This hotel and restaurant ticks all the right boxes and is absolutely deserving of its fine dining status. Heck, it’s so lovely here that making a weekend of it and booking one of the gorgeous guest rooms is pretty much obligatory.
Victory at Mersea
Get yourself a seat outside and breathe in that refreshing sea air at Victory at Mersea. The Mersea Island fishermen reel in an abundance of culinary treasure from the very waters you’ll be enjoying the views of as you eat. Now that’s fresh.
The White Hart Inn Moreton
Cosying up on a Chesterfield-style sofa next to the fire, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were in a charmingly quaint Essex pub; this rustic old building with its wooden-beamed ceilings, exposed brick and traditional bar certainly gives that impression. The menu, however, will come as a pleasant surprise, listing authentic, imaginative and beyond-delicious Italian fare.
Harbourside at The Pier Hotel
Harbourside offers seaside fare, but not as we know it. Coastal classics are given a sophisticated makeover at the Harbourside, and offered alongside more indulgent treats like grilled whole lobster and North Atlantic halibut. Swap the polystyrene box for white-linen-clad tables, wooden two-pronged forks for polished silver and take in the seaside scenery from a whole new viewpoint.
Don’t know about you, but we like to sit in the swanky dining rooms of manor houses like Orsett Hall, sipping something cold and fizzy as we look out over the grounds and pretend it’s all ours. But that’s just us. The Garden Restaurant is a great setting for indulging in such daydreams, with its conservatory windows allowing you to look out upon your fantasy estate. The food’s pretty darn good too – and it’s got two AA rosettes to prove it.
If you’ve spent the day at Stoke by Nayland engaged in a taxing game of golf or an equally gruelling spa session, then its restaurant, Lakes, is the place to go afterwards for a well-earned culinary reward. If you haven’t, however, been occupied with either of the above, just go anyway – the food is top-notch. You can always grab a table overlooking the golfing fairway and be out there in spirit. The people at the AA definitely think Lakes is worth a visit – they’ve just added a second AA rosette to its growing collection.
The Green Man
If you want to enjoy the food of a top-notch restaurant with the kind of laid-back atmosphere, quality ales and beer garden you’d find at a country pub, then you’re looking for something like The Green Man. You can even take the kids to this family-friendly foodie haven. Or, you know, not.
Don’t fancy driving all the way to London just to get ripped off at a pricey restaurant? No, nor do we. Instead, maybe just mosey on into Chelmsford and pop into Russell’s. There, you can tuck into some capital cuisine with London style but suburban prices.
The Cricketers is everyone’s dream local restaurant. Unpretentious and cosy, it knocks up some remarkable dishes using regional ingredients, including vegetables and herbs from Jamie Oliver’s nearby organic garden. The husband-and-wife owners (who just happen to be the parents of said TV chef) have a pretty impressive foodie background and certainly know a thing or two about what people want at mealtimes.