Best restaurants in Essex

Whether for good reasons or not, it’s impossible to deny that Essex is one of the most famous counties in the UK. Steeped in history and within travelling distance of London, this scenic county is a popular spot with commuters and those who want a taste of countryside living, without totally losing access to the big city. Essex is also home to a whole host of fantastic restaurants, so whether you’re looking for a countryside pub or a classic bit of Essex glamour, our pick of the best restaurants in Essex is sure to have something that takes your fancy.

Updated on 31 January 2020

What’s the first thing anyone mentions as soon as the word ‘Essex’ is brought up? Yep, it’s the cliché stereotypes of white stilettos, fake tan and a general lack of intelligence. While ITVBe’s enduringly popular The Only Way Is Essex may not have done much to better Essex’s reputation, it certainly helped put the county back on the map.

There’s far more to Essex than reality television cameras and tanning salons though. In fact, Essex has quite the reputation as a foodie hub, thanks to its wealth of cosy gastropubs, farm-to-table restaurants and glitzy fine diners. If you are after a taste of the high-life, you’re probably best off visiting the likes of Brentwood and Chigwell, where glamorous restaurants are ten a penny and the likes of Wagyu beef and lobster are on the menu (as well as plenty of opportunities for Instagram content).

If you are more interested in the Essex of old, head further out where you will find cosy pubs complete with roaring fires that serve hearty dinners and Sunday lunches. Whatever kind of dining experience you’re after, our pick of the best restaurants in Essex will have something that you’re looking for. So, get started by browsing our Essex restaurants below – after all, it’s the only way.    

Aurum Restaurant

Aurum Restaurant

The Seven Hotel, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1 1DT

A weekly changing menu of internationally-inspired dishes should be enough to tempt you to Aurum. If it’s not though, perhaps the promise of afternoon tea or the restaurant’s collection of 30-plus gins will do the trick.
£30 - £49
British
Afternoon tea
The Cricketers - Saffron Walden

The Cricketers - Saffron Walden

Whyken Road, Clavering, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4QT

Owned by Jamie Oliver’s parents, this rustic country pub with rooms serves the hearty likes of steak and ale pie and treacle tart. It also benefits from being surrounded by country walks and cycle routes.
£30 - £49
Modern European
British
Smith’s Ongar

Smith’s Ongar

Fyfield Road, Ongar, Essex, CM5 0AL

Having originally opened its doors in 1958, this Essex old-timer is still going strong thanks to its excellent seafood menu and friendly service. On warmer days, the terrace is a charming spot for dining alfresco.
£50 - £79
British
Fish
Grand Trunk Road

Grand Trunk Road

219 High Road, London, E18 2PB

From one of the founders of Mayfair’s Michelin-starred Tamarind comes this smart Indian in South Woodford. The menu is replete with authentic and truly delicious Indian dishes, completed by sleek service and rather reasonable prices.
£30 - £49
Indian
Kingsford Park at Bannatyne Colchester

Kingsford Park at Bannatyne Colchester

Layer Road, Essex, CO2 0HS

Part of Bannatyne Colchester spa, Kingsford Park is a smart restaurant which majors in British comfort food, making use of seasonal ingredients. Menu highlights include warming soups and steak, while there’s plenty for vegetarians too.
£50 - £79
Modern European
Milsoms

Milsoms

Stratford Road, Dedham, Essex, CO7 6HW

Unlike most country-house restaurants, Milsoms is an emphatically casual affair, with no bookings or dress code. The food is far from simple however, with dishes including slow-cooked lamb shank and Keralan cauliflower and potato curry.
£30 - £49
International
The Grill Room at Down Hall

The Grill Room at Down Hall

Down Hall, Matching Road, Hatfield Heath, Hertfordshire, CM22 7AS

Flooded with natural light, The Grill Room serves a contemporary British menu featuring goat’s cheese soufflé and roast turkey. Aside from the à la carte, there’s also a classic afternoon tea and an indulgent Sunday lunch.
£50 - £79
Modern European
Aspera Benfleet

Aspera Benfleet

130 London Road, Essex, SS7 5SQ

Found in Benfleet, Aspera is a smart Mediterranean grill, offering a warm welcome to anyone who comes through the door. The wide-ranging menu spans chicken and lamb shish, alongside seafood, steaks and considered veggie options.
£30 - £49
Turkish
The Bull Brentwood

The Bull Brentwood

13 Brook Street, Essex, CM14 5LZ

The Bull is one of Brentwood’s most popular pubs, with a rustic feel. The menu matches the cosy vibes, with hearty dishes to choose from including steak and Guinness pie, and 28-day aged beef burgers.
£30 - £49
Pubs
The Queens Head Fyfield

The Queens Head Fyfield

Queens Street, Ongar, Essex, CM5 0RY

15th century pub The Queen’s Head serves up modern pub grub with the occasional international influence. In the summer, head out to the garden, while the real log fire will keep you warm in winter.
£30 - £49
British
Gastropub
Rose & Crown - Saffron Walden

Rose & Crown - Saffron Walden

Crown Hill, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 2HA

Weekly quizzes and local ales show the Rose & Crown is a village boozer, but it’s the Sunday lunch that’s the main draw for us. Choose one of three meats, before loading your plate with trimmings.
Under £30
Pubs
The Bell Inn - Stanford-le-Hope

The Bell Inn - Stanford-le-Hope

High Road, Horndon-on-the-Hill, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, SS17 8LD

The Bell Inn has been run by the same family for over 75 years. The daily-changing menu hones in on seafood and classic puddings, while open fires and original beams add to the cosy feel.
£30 - £49
Gastropub
Aroma Indian Restaurant

Aroma Indian Restaurant

55 High Street, Romford, Essex, RM1 1JL

Two decades on and Aroma is still pulling in the punters. Diners praise the friendly service, but we’re most tempted by the chef’s specialities, which include butter chicken tikka and tandoori lamb spiced with ginger.
£30 - £49
Indian
The Magic Mushroom

The Magic Mushroom

Barleylands Road, Billericay, Essex, CM11 2UD

Found in Billericay (home to Gavin, Stacey and the gang), The Magic Mushroom is known for serving relaxed modern pub grub. Try something different with the pakora battered seabass or keep things simple with steak.
£50 - £79
British
Pivaz Brentwood

Pivaz Brentwood

92-94 Brentwood High Street, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 4AP

Now boasting two Essex locations and another in Hackney, Turkish restaurant Pivaz combines a stylishly appointed dining room with a selection of mezze and dishes from a grill – think lamb shish or grilled halloumi cheese.
£30 - £49
Mediterranean
La Bicicletta Brentwood

La Bicicletta Brentwood

37 Station Road, Essex, CM13 3TL

Just a short drive from Brentwood, family-run La Bicicletta is an Italian restaurant without a set menu. Instead, chef Alberto whips up dishes based on seasonality – friendly service and thoughtfully chosen wines are also guaranteed.
£30 - £49
Mediterranean
Tom Dick and Harrys

Tom Dick and Harrys

153 High Road, Loughton, Essex, IG10 4LF

Welcoming every type of diner and serving every kind of meal (hence the name), this casual spot specialises in dishes from around the world. Visit for dinner, brunch or Sunday roasts, with friendly service guaranteed.
£30 - £49
Modern European
International
Sheesh at Ye Olde King

Sheesh at Ye Olde King's Head

High Road, Chigwell, Essex, IG7 6QA

It may be best known for being a celeb favourite, but it’s the food at stylish grill restaurant Sheesh that keeps punters coming back. Dishes from the luxe menu include Wagyu ribeye and truffle pizza.
£30 - £49
Turkish
Olio Chelmsford

Olio Chelmsford

37 New London Road, Essex, CM2 0ND

This family-run Italian in Chelmsford might not be re-inventing the wheel when it comes to Italian food, but it does a great job of the classics. Tuck into the likes of homemade lasagne and Bolognese.
£30 - £49
Italian
Tudors Restaurant at Marygreen Manor Hotel

Tudors Restaurant at Marygreen Manor Hotel

Marygreen Manor Hotel London Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 4NS

Part of Mary Green Manor, Tudors is a historical restaurant dating back to the 16th century. The menu is just as traditional, featuring the tempting likes of guinea fowl terrine and venison with beetroot purée.
£30 - £49
British
Galvin Green Man

Galvin Green Man

Main Road, Howe Street, Great Waltham, Essex, CM3 1BG

The Galvin Brothers have returned to their roots with this cosy pub and restaurant. Expect modern British fare, including Scotch eggs with pickled walnuts and a beef burger topped with smoked cheddar and crispy bacon.
£30 - £49
British
The Gallery South Woodford

The Gallery South Woodford

159 High Road, London, London, E18 2PA

Plush furnishings might signal that The Gallery is formal, but fun touches like ‘press for cocktails’ buttons prove it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Expect luxe comfort food, while post-prandial drinks await in the upstairs lounge.
Modern European
The Sun Inn

The Sun Inn

High Street, Unknown, Essex, CO7 6DF

Seasonal and locally grown is the aim of the game at cosy The Sun Inn. The vision is realised in dishes such as confit pork belly with date jam, and chicken breast from Merrifield farm.
£30 - £49
Gastropub
Pig & Whistle Restaurant

Pig & Whistle Restaurant

Pig & Whistle, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4SZ

Taking up residence in a 16th-century pub, the Pig & Whistle is all about homely dishes cooked to perfection. The candle-lit space is rather romantic too, while afternoon tea and Sunday roasts are further draws.
£30 - £49
Modern European
British
The Willow Room

The Willow Room

2 Maldon Road, Maldon, Essex, CM9 8NH

Named after the ancient willow on its grounds, The Willow Room serves an ingredient-led menu which uses produce from local suppliers. Top orders include the beer-battered fish of the day and the sticky toffee pudding.
£50 - £79
British
Haywards Restaurant

Haywards Restaurant

111 Bell Common, Epping, Essex, CM16 4DZ

Found in a former coach house in Epping, Haywards serves a seasonally driven menu which uses produce from its own garden. Fancy making a weekend of it? Haywards offers overnight packages at neighbouring The Gate House.
£30 - £49
Modern European

If you want to explore the UK’s food scene beyond Essex, check out our pick of the best restaurants in Winchester.