The Essex cafés named the best in the county - as voting opens to crown the winner

A freshly made cup of coffee with a pattern in the foam being handed to a customer. -Credit:Tom Werner
A freshly made cup of coffee with a pattern in the foam being handed to a customer. -Credit:Tom Werner

Five Essex cafes have been named the best in Essex as they are shortlisted for the coveted Muddy Stilettos award. The award, affectionately known as 'The Muddies', has annually celebrated small and independent businesses across the UK since 2013.

Our beautiful county of Essex boasts a plethora of charming cafes, but just five made the cut to vie for top honours in this fiercely contested category. Voting is ongoing to choose the winner of the number one spot but they have all been deemed well worth a visit.

The first café on the list is Chantilly Brentwood. Chantilly has a charming pink interior and offers a delightful afternoon tea, breakfast, and brunch. They also have a wide range of cakes and treats to satisfy your sweet cravings. If you're looking for something to drink, they have an extensive selection of hot and cold beverages, and they are especially renowned for their delicious milkshakes.

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One reviewer wrote: “AMAZING! Afternoon tea here was so fresh and delicious. We have done a lot of afternoon teas but this one was the best. Cute venue, so clean, amazing staff and food was delicious.”

The Paper Mill Lock Tearooms are a charming, family-owned business situated in Little Baddow, halfway along the scenic Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. These tearooms make for the perfect pit stop, located right by the 14-mile-long river that runs out from the centre of Chelmsford.

With stunning views out onto the river, you can enjoy a variety of handmade cakes, sandwiches and toasties. They offer half-sized portions for your little ones alongside a vegan menu.

One diner wrote: “The setting is picturesque, the staff, friendly and attentive and the food uniformly excellent. The toasted bacon, sausage and cheese sandwich was a delight. Highly recommended.”

Squeeze Cafe is a relaxed lunch, brunch and smoothie spot, found on Leigh Broadway. With their gluten-free, vegan, and children's options, they cater for a variety of dietary needs. Their menu includes soup, salad bowls, burgers and bakery options. Whether you're in the mood for a protein smoothie or a glass of wine, Squeeze Cafe has got you covered.

Squeeze Cafe offers seating options on the upstairs, downstairs, or rooftop terrace for customers to enjoy the view. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet to work, the cafe also has a dedicated workspace, equipped with free wifi.

One reviewer wrote: “Went for brunch a few weeks ago and what a delight. Food tasted amazing, portions were decent and plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans also available. I look forward to returning to try more of the menu!!”

The Farm Cafe by Black Pig is located on Chigborough Road in Maldon. The cafe offers a delectable menu of brunch options, ranging from classic pancakes to eggs royale. But that's not all - the cafe also serves dinner, with a focus on lobster and burgers. You can order the East Coast grilled whole lobster, Colchester lamb burger, alongside a range of sides, including mac n’ cheese and buttermilk chicken.

Set in a charming converted barn, they also offer private dining and exclusive hire for events. One diner wrote: “Absolutely by far the best food we have experienced in a while! Superb! Recommend the burgers, locally sourced produce is evident,” whilst another review described the cafe as offering “the best burger in Essex.”

Market West is a charming independent coffee shop nestled in the heart of Rochford. They serve up an exceptional range of Allpress Espresso coffee blends that are exclusively roasted for the finest cafes in the UK, alongside a delicious selection of baked goods and cakes.

Market West is also a hub of community activity, regularly hosting a diverse range of evening events, such as yoga and meditation experiences, candle painting and wine nights. They even sell their very own Market West reusable cups!

One of the many five-star says: “Market West is an absolute gem! From the moment you step in, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee envelopes you. The baristas are not just experts; they’re coffee artists”, whilst another review stated that it “Deserves six stars.”