Hardens Guide to the Best Restaurants in Essex
Hardens guides have spent 30 years compiling reviews of the best Essex restaurants. On Hardens.com you'll find details and reviews of 156 restaurants in Essex and our unique survey based approach to rating and reviewing Essex restaurants gives you the best insight into the top restaurants in every area and of every type of cuisine.
Featured Essex Restaurants
1. The Bell Inn British, Modern restaurant in Horndon on the Hill High Rd - SS17
This fifteenth-century timber-framed favourite has been run by the same family for 80 years, and “really stands out for its service” and “remarkable consistency”. “They use local, seasonal ingredients and the menu is different on every visit – love it!”. The owners also run The Ostlers, a modern cocktail bar and grill a few doors away.
2. Smith's Brasserie British, Modern restaurant in Ongar Fyfield Rd - CM5
This “excellent seafood and fish restaurant” features “traditional/classic cooking”, and “its high turnover means the fish is never less than perfectly fresh”. It attracts a clientele of “Essex luminaries including Rod Stewart and Alan Sugar, who once described it as his ‘posh chippy’”: “a lot of the diners are a surprising shade of orange that is rarely observed in nature... but it’s still a confident recommendation for fish lovers!”
3. Haywards Restaurant British, Modern restaurant in Epping 111 Bell Common - CM16
“Some of the best fine dining in Essex” – Amanda & Jahdre’s “local favourite” is tucked away behind The Forest Gate Inn (owned by Amanda’s family). It has a large regular following from across the county for its “continuously excellent” cuisine: “it could rival any top London restaurant any day”.
4. The Square and Compasses British, Traditional restaurant in Fairstead Fuller Street - CM3
“Good cooking, with locally sourced ingredients that will not break the bank” attracts solid feedback for this mid-1600s inn, which has held on to attractive original features and taps nearby estates for its hearty game-centric fare (villagers themselves contribute the vegetables).
5. Le Talbooth British, Modern restaurant in Dedham Gun Hill - CO7
The “superb setting” – a picturesque, half-timbered building by the River Stour complete with riverside terrace, which features in paintings by Constable – helps maintain the allure of this classic, famously romantic destination. However, its large loyal following from Essex and beyond also award its updated traditional cuisine consistently high ratings.
6. West Mersea Oyster Bar Fish & seafood restaurant in West Mersea Coast Rd - CO5
Arguably “a more rounded experience than The Company Shed down the road” – this stripped-back seafront diner is “friendly, good value and busy”; and offers a “great variety of hot and cold fish dishes” (not least superlative oysters, their beds in sight).
7. Grain British, Modern restaurant in Colchester 11a North Hill - CO1
“Some of the best food in Essex” risks being a double-handed compliment, but this trendy four-year-old is winning ever-more awards and accreditations. The food (chosen from a menu with five sections, ‘garden’, ‘water’, ‘land’, ‘cheese’ and ‘sweet’) provides “a wonderful combination of flavours and the concept here of small plates works really well”.
8. The Sun Inn British, Modern restaurant in Dedham High St - CO7
“A proper pub with roaring fires, dogs and good beer on tap”, and where the food is “a notch above your average boozer”, whether you opt for the bar food or a more formal meal in the restaurant. Add in “comfortable” rooms and a “stunning, thoughtfully decorated” building and it’s “a great place for a long weekend”.
9. The Lion Inn British, Modern restaurant in Boreham Main Rd - CM3
“A short drive from Chelmsford” in “the heart of Essex” – this “highly recommended” inn is large enough to host weddings and conferences, with a spacious Victorian-style conservatory for dining that has a “real vibrant buzz”, along with “decent good-value food and very friendly service”.
10. The Pipe of Port British, Traditional restaurant in Southend-on-Sea 84 High St - SS1
This atmospheric bar and wine merchant – mahogany tables, sawdust floors – is “famous for its pies, but they also take their wines seriously and have a great selection to choose from” (40 wines by the glass and 150 by the bottle). Top Tip – “Watch out for their regular wine events and supper nights.”
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