21 of the best places to eat in Essex with something for every taste and budget

The rib eye steak at Salt in Maldon High Street
The rib eye steak at Salt in Maldon High Street -Credit:EssexLive

Essex is home to an energetic food and drink scene with a huge number of restaurants, cafes and takeaways. The county has a variety of options catering for all tastes whether it's a spice-tingling curry, flavoursome burger or a traditional English afternoon tea.

EssexLive's popular scheme Essex Eats - in which we visit independent eateries without them knowing - has allowed us to make trips to various locations across the county. It has allowed us to experience tasty takeaways, enjoyable brunches and so much more.

We're fortunate enough that in Essex there are a whole host of eateries that cater for almost every cuisine and every budget. You can spend hundreds of pounds or have change left over from a tenner - there's something for eveyone.

READ MORE: Find out more about our successful Essex Eats campaign

ALSO READ: The best pub, restaurant, cafe and takeaway as named by EssexLive readers

Below we've listed (in no particular order) 30 different restaurants that our reporters have visited and think are among Essex's best restaurants, takeaways and cafes.


The San

Moulsham Street, Chelmsford

A short walk away from Chelmsford city centre sits an incredibly popular Chinese all-you-can-eat restaurant. More than 120 dishes are available with classics such as spring rolls, sweet and sour chicken, and chicken chow mein as well as eye-catching dishes including sizzling beef in black bean sauce. It's a set price from £22 (plus a 10% service charge) with costs varying on the date of visit.


Eastwood Road, Rayleigh

D'bouk, on Eastwood Road in Rayleigh, might well be a little over 4,500km away from Beirut but their gorgeous flat bread, meat dishes and more can make you feel as though you've been transported across to the historic West Asian country of Lebanon. Gorgeous starters and flavoursome mains are guaranteed at D'Bouk with a backing track of pop and Mediterranean music.

-Credit:Matt Lee/EssexLive
-Credit:Matt Lee/EssexLive

Balti King

Moulsham Street, Chelmsford

Moulsham Street is known by many as being the takeaway mile in Chelmsford with a huge selection to choose from - but Balti King should be a must-visit when considering an Indian meal out. The staff's attention to detail matches the top-class food on offer making it a great place for an evening out in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.


Moulsham Street, Chelmsford

The taste of South Korea was brought to Chelmsford when the family owners of ROK returned to Essex after three years in Yeosu. Among a menu of nearly 30 different items, ROK Kitchen boasts several homemade dishes which have been refined over the years.

-Credit:Matt Lee/EssexLive
-Credit:Matt Lee/EssexLive

They offer an award-winning burger in the form of the ROK Sweet Chilli Burger (£9.75) which is made from crispy Korean fried chicken, homemade Korean sweet chilli sauce, American mustard, lettuce, homemade ROK slaw in a brioche bun. They also sell freshly cooked and incredible tasting chicken wings (£7.75) coated in their homemade ROK sauce - perfect of a lunchtime meal.


La Romantica

High Street, Rayleigh

The Italian restaurant proclaims itself as being Rayleigh's oldest independent serving Italian restaurant and pizzeria whilst offering to 'let our family looks after yours'. Set in a cosy Grade II listed cottage, it's like stepping into someone else's home at La Romantica in Rayleigh.

-Credit:Matt Lee/EssexLive
-Credit:Matt Lee/EssexLive

There are all sorts of food on offer from classic pizzas to a traditional Bolognese (£11.95), Carbonara or Lasagne (both £12.95). The filling Marinara (£16.95) - comprising of tagliatelle, seasonal seafood, garlic, and a white wine sauce - is one reporter's recommendation.


Moulsham Street, Chelmsford

Sometimes there is no better option than a traditional fish and chippy dinner. Robinsons in Chelmsford have spent more than 120 years perfecting their menu.

The prices can be a little steep - mostly down to the rising cost of bills and other expenditure - but portions are large enough to leave most people with some extra for another meal.

Leigh Bistro

Broadway, Leigh-on-Sea

This little restaurant describes itself as "unpretentious" and has a menu offering European and Mediterranean options. The main room of Leigh Bistro has a warm feeling to it too; a crystal-looking chandelier is surrounded by rings of plants on shelves engraved in the ceiling.

Leigh Bistro provide a well-rounded delicious meal with staff who treat their customers like royalty. It was clear from their attitude and advice on the food and service they were very passionate about their bistro, and that shines through in the setting and the food.

Shepherdess Café

Duke Street, Chelmsford

Next door to Chelmsford Railway Station are plenty of options to pick from for a meal. A new café has sprung up on Duke Street in recent months which has an inviting exterior and impressive social media reviews.

A Menemen is a traditional Turkish dish - cooked with eggs, peppers, onions, spices and meat - and at the Shepherdess Cafe the modestly-sized dish explodes with flavour and a little spicy kick of heat without going overboard.

Gambero D'oro

High Street, Rayleigh

There's little about Italian food which doesn't get the taste buds tinging in an evening and at one Essex restaurant that's certainly the case. Tucked away at the quieter end of Rayleigh's High Street sits Gambero D'oro, one of the town's most highly-rated eateries.

The calamari was gorgeously crispy, it wasn't too chewy or tough. The dishes are excellently sized allowing plenty of room to enjoy a main and dessert. Pizzas here come packed with flavour whilst steaks are reasonably priced and beautifully textured.


High Street, Maldon

Take a trip to Maldon's Salt if you're wanting a slice of Italy. Often packed full of happy customers, this tasty Italian is one plenty of people walk past in Maldon High Street.

Tortelloni Asparagus at Salt in Maldon High Street
Tortelloni Asparagus at Salt in Maldon High Street -Credit:EssexLive

Customers are met by a smell of fresh fish and pizza which makes them feel as though they're on the coast of Sorrento. With the tasty food and inviting environment it's easy to forget you're actually in Essex.

A Canteen

High Street, Maldon

A Canteen seems to offer pretty much any kind of dining or drinking experience you could be after. The business has been operating all the way back to 2001. Walking in, you're greeted with three distinct different scenes to drink or eat in. To your left, a plush lounge awaits with relaxing sofas, small coffee tables, with paintings and shelved ornaments across the walls.

There is also a bookshelf filled with copies to take, and board games. To the right is a pristine and well-stocked bar, with high tables and chairs against the front windows, which look out onto the River Can stretching through the centre of Chelmsford, a scene not unlike one from a photogenic European cafe.

Celebrity Favourites

Continental Café

High Street, Maldon

Essex's pop star Olly Murs is a big fan of Continental Café, a popular Maldon café that serves delicious slabs of cake. The quaint café is small in appearance from the outside, but inside are large eating spaces and just as hearty portion sizes.


Cornhill, Chelmsford

There are two branches of Queenies in Essex (Billericay and in Chelmsford) and it's a café loved by TOWIE stars Sam Mucklow and Olivia Attwood, as well as Eastenders star Jacqueline Jossa. The café was cosy and felt like a safe haven away from the hustle and bustle of Chelmsford city centre.

The menu includes plenty of tasty options including classic brunch dishes, burgers, pancakes and sandwiches. The drinks menu is also filled with everything you could want, including milkshakes, cocktails, mocktails and hot drinks.


High Road, Chigwell

If you ask a TOWIE star of their favourite restaurant to eat in Essex, the most likely answer you are going to get is Sheesh Chigwell. The prestige Mediterranean restaurant, based on the High Road, has won the hearts of Essex reality stars over the years and became a headquarters for them to wine, dine, party, and parade on social media. Now, it is known for its bougie dress attire and prices.

Check out those portions
Check out those portions -Credit:Trip Advisor

An expensive Pina Colade (£18) might make the eyes water but it will certainly be enjoyable to taste. Meanwhile a chicken (off the bone) with mixed salad (£29) is beautifully seasoned, tender and melts in the mouth. A visit to Sheesh will be a pleasant surprise and remind you not to judge a book by its cover.


Queen's Road, Buckhurst Hill

Soiree is one of Buckhurst Hill's top-rated restaurants, serving Turkish and Mediterranean dishes alongside a variety of cocktails and drinks to select from. It's hard to miss with its eye-catching golden sign gleaming from matte black walls. As a lunch deal, Soiree offers 1-3 course meals between 12pm and 4pm. The deal starts from £10.90 and goes up to £14.90.


School Road, Ongar

With such an elegant exterior and flavoursome food it's little surprise that Tanishq in Ongar has gained celebrity fans. TOWIE star Gemma Collins is understood to be a big fan of the modern fine-dining Indian that has a seasonal menu.

The restaurant offers a range of options from mini poppadom's (£4) to Grilled Eggplant Rollatini (£9), Scallopini Murgh Tikka (£10) and, their most-expensive dish, the Anglo-Indian Wild Prawns (£29).



High Street, Rayleigh

The thought of a pink hot chocolate might make you tremble if you've not got a sweet tooth, but Wilmas in Rayleigh also serves plenty of suitable savoury dishes. The dog-friendly café is popular among locals with families, children and individuals often seen enjoying a visit.


If you're after a warm drink during the winter then the pink hot chocolate would be recommended; whilst a scoop of ice cream or a milkshake is ideal on a heated summers day.


High Street, Brentwood

A number of people in Brentwood have chosen to live there due to their busy lifestyles and the town's ease of access to London. But a visit to EighTea9 is an ideal way to break up some of the chaotic commuter lifestyle.

The cosy café offers a momentary pause from the busy nature of life with a hot drink, small snack, breakfast or larger lunch dishes. The interior is designed to an L-shape with a seated area in-front of large windows to the front, followed by a smaller area along one wall with the serving bar - complete with cake stands teasing you to have a sugar hit - filling the other.

Art Café

High Street, West Mersea

It's very rare these days to go into a coffee shop and not see rows of people either sitting typing away on their laptops or studiously ignoring their companions by scrolling intently on their phones. But there is definitely one and it's on Mersea Island.

When you visit you can pair a number of classic hot and cold drinks with a calming atmosphere with very few distractions. You might come across friends having a small natter whilst others will enjoy a creative spark from the enjoyable environment.


Moto Pizza

Baddow Road, Chelmsford

The thought of "unlimited pizza" is likely to send a spark of joy through even the coldest of hearts. Whilst no food is for everyone, you'll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't like pizza at all.

MOTO Pizza offers bottomless slices
MOTO Pizza offers bottomless slices -Credit:MOTO Pizza

The sweet and savoury aromas follow you all the way to your table. Each table has a green glass bottle with lights inside which can be turned off. You simply get seated, order some drinks, ensure your light is on, and then await for your first round of sumptuous slices to arrive via the waiting staff.

Moto Pizza offer a good variety of meat and veggie options to ensure everyone is able to enjoy their offerings. It's unlimited pizza priced at £16.50 a head - what's not to like about that.

Waka Foods

Railway Street, Chelmsford

If you've never given African food a try, then make sure to visit Waka Foods. Hidden away behind the railway station and close to The Ship pub, this cosy restaurant is a gem for those wanting to try something new.

With a range of meat and vegetable options, there is plenty for everyone. If you've got a slight intolerance to spice then the helpful staff will also be able to help find something to match your palette.

Where do you think is the best place to eat in Essex? Comment below.