Hardens Guide to the Best Restaurants in Essex
Hardens guides have spent 32 years compiling reviews of the best Essex restaurants. On Hardens.com you'll find details and reviews of 28 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
. Galvin Green Man
British, Traditional restaurant in Great Waltham
Howe St - CM3
“Highly recommend for a slice of London in the heart of Essex” – the Galvin brothers’ “large gastropub” (dating from the 14th century) “in a lovely Essex village” is one of the most commented-on destinations in our annual diners’ poll. And it draws fans from across the county as well as from ‘The Smoke’ for a run-out. One “splendid lunch” included “torched mackerel fillet, a top burger, lovely wood-roasted skate wing in beurre noisette, lemon posset”, typifying the kind of superior “everyday” food that secures its fanbase, and staff who are “always friendly and helpful” is another recurring theme. Top Tip – for parents, there’s a big garden with a play area.
. The Lion Inn
British, Modern restaurant in Boreham
Main Rd - CM3
2021 Review: “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”.
. The Blue Strawberry
International restaurant in Hatfield Peverel
The Street - CM3
This “gorgeous restaurant” has “delivered style and taste” for almost 30 years, and wins high praise for the unerring consistency of its traditional service and cuisine: “never had a bad experience – always look forward to return visits”. Top Menu Tip – “individual beef Wellingtons to die for!”.
. Ranfields Brasserie
British, Modern restaurant in Coggeshall
4 - 6 Stoneham Street - CO6
2019 Review: “The name may have changed but not the warm ambience of this most unusual restaurant”, which can count the late Peter Langan amongst its past owners, and which was previously known as Baumanns. Its modern brasserie fare is decently rated too.
. The Cuckoo
British, Modern restaurant in Radley Green
“A good-to-find culinary outpost in an area with few interesting eating spots” – this “welcoming” gastropub is well worth remembering: “a steady hand in the kitchen meets good ingredients, and if food and wine both tread a relatively safe path, it’s no less enjoyable for that”.
. The Magic Mushroom
British, Modern restaurant in Billericay
Barleylands Road - CM11
2022 Review: Darren Bennett’s stalwart, serving up creative modern British cooking (including a well-regarded afternoon tea) “continues to be reliable in all respects”, whether you stop to take advantage of the set menus or its popular side act as a wedding and events venue.
British, Modern restaurant in Brentwood
Navestock Side - CM14
“Come for the food, savour the view” from the airy conservatory in this well-known converted pub which specialises in seafood – everything from jellied eels to whole lobster – and is “excellent for every occasion”.
. Eat 17
British, Modern restaurant in Bishop’s Stortford
23 Potter Street - CM23
2021 Review: “In the heart of Walthamstow Village”, this “great neighbourhood spot” – a Spar supermarket with kitchen attached – wins praise for its “quality” cooking (“the 2019 Harden’s description of pub-type grub underplays its standard and originality”). “Very relaxed and welcoming for young children”, the venture’s best-known innovation is bacon jam, which you can buy by the jar in various flavours. Other branches have opened in Hackney and, most recently, Hammersmith (somewhat better-served areas, so these respective branches are somewhat less of a local lifeline).
. The Company Shed
Fish & seafood restaurant in West Mersea
129 Coast Road - CO5
“Simple seafood at its best” – “straight from the sea”, and sold without frills from a basic shack (so bring your own wine, bread and butter). Well known for many miles around: “it’s on an island, 65 miles from London. They don’t advertise as they don’t need to!". Top Tip – “native oysters from September to April are extraordinary”.
. Shillingfords at The Foragers Retreat
International restaurant in Pebmarsh
The Courtyard - CO10
2022 Review: Carl & Beth Shillingford operate out of these converted former stables nowadays (having moved from art venue, The Quay in Sudbury, a few years ago). Food is served from breakfast and then deli-style throughout the day. On certain weekend evenings they bring back the full ‘Shillingford’s’ experience – providing a seasonal menu with many foraged ingredients. Limited but upbeat feedback – “a rustic-feeling place with good, rustic food”.
. The Secret Garden Café & Restaurant
French restaurant in Sudbury
Buzzards Hall, 17 Friars Street, - CO10
“A joy to eat in, whether for lunch or dinner” – this Gallic institution in a timber-framed old Sudbury property has been run for almost 20 years by Stéphane Chapotot and chef Alain Jacq, who took it over from the former’s uncle. In fact you can eat here even earlier, since the café that used to be separate was combined into the same site to economise during the pandemic. “Although not strictly vegetarian or vegan, the Secret Garden always has absolutely delicious vegetarian choices”.
. The Cricketers
British, Modern restaurant in Clavering
Wicken Rd - CB11
2022 Review: Jamie Oliver’s parents Trevor & Sally retired from this sixteenth-century village gastropub after 44 years in November 2020, so it has recently changed hands: it’s now a part of the 12-strong Chestnut group of pubs. The Olivers always ran the Cricketers well, but regulars say “(even in the tepee) the food is possibly up a notch”.
. The Fox And Hounds Restaurant & Bar
French restaurant in Hunsdon
2 High Street - SG12
This “lovely old gastropub with way above average cooking” “keeps up the standard year on year” – chef-patron James Wix and his wife Bianca have run it for almost 20 years. There’s a “lovely atmosphere and friendly staff”, and James’s “first-class cooking” has plenty of European influences.
. Food Leigh on Sea
British, Modern restaurant in Leigh-on-Sea
92 Leigh Road - SS9
2022 Review: A “really quirky, excellent local restaurant serving food that is designed for the health- conscious… it’s a bit of a shock not having everything slathered in butter and salt, but it’s inventive and delicious” nonetheless – and the result of something of a conversion for chef John Lawson, who was riding high as a Ramsay ally when he was diagnosed with cancer. His “delicious” and “extraordinary value” tasting menus (four courses £52 on Friday, six courses £68 on Saturday) make for a “quite exceptional gastronomic experience” by all accounts.
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