Plan your break to Essex; a country and coastal destination with rustic seafood shacks, cosy village pubs and fine dining. Discover why Essex is one of the best locations in the UK for a foodie holiday.
Hop in your car and take in the sights, sounds and flavours of Essex.
The staycation is here to stay, and Essex should be top of your list! There’s so much more to discover than TOWIE. In fact, Visit Essex, its official tourism board, recently released a campaign ‘This is Essex’; a short video which aims to change people’s perception of the county’s stereotype.
Beyond the fake tan and bling, there is plenty to explore. From coast to country the best way to discover Essex’s charms is by car. Meander through winding country lanes, passing through picturesque villages heading towards rustic shores.
One of Essex’s lesser known gems is its food. The county is home to an abundance of producers specialising in juice, meat, seafood, confectionary, wine and more. Let’s not forget this fair county has turned out some of the best chefs in the business; Jamie Oliver and the Galvin Brothers, who are Michelin-star accredited. Check out their restaurant at the Galvin Green Man in Great Waltham, near Chelmsford.
If you’re looking for a road trip with a difference, get behind the wheel and follow your hunger with pitstops at seafront restaurants, micro-breweries, artisan bakeries and vineyards. Start your journey towards the East in Burnham-on-Crouch; Essex wine country. Here you could easily confuse the landscape for Tuscany as you drive pass rows and rows of vines.
Stop at Crouch Ridge Vineyard; a wine barn, cellar and vineyard all rolled into one. Tours and tastings are offered throughout the year. Owner Ross guides the tours, leading groups through the rows of vines used to produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He explains how this area of the UK, due to its climate, is now rivalling France in the wine stakes.
Thanks to the River Crouch, the temperature stays above freezing meaning a harvest is rarely ruined by frost. The tour is followed by a tasting of three wines complete with notes and tasting tips. Book lunch afterwards in the restaurant, where you can dine al fresco on the terrace overlooking the vineyard and river. Wine is available to purchase, and the Althorne Pinot Cuvee is highly recommended.
Head North passing through Maldon where you can pick up its famous salt and local ale from the Maldon Brewing Co. Stretch your legs with a walk along the Blackwater to Heybridge Basin. Click here for 10 things to do in Maldon.
For an overnight stay seek out the private dwellings on Osea Island. The island is only accessible at low tide for a period of four hours where cars can be driven across. At other times a river taxi ferries you back and forth. Steeped in history, here the island is your playground. Far away from noise and light pollution at night the stars glisten. Open a bottle of local wine, sit back and enjoy.
From here, head further north again to the pretty village of Tiptree, famed for its jam. The Jam Factory is open to visitors and offers an insight into the jam-making process and history of this village’s legacy. Don’t leave without trying an afternoon tea of freshly baked, warm fruit scones, cream and jam. Dine in the restaurant with its traditional oak beams or during the summer sit outside on the terrace. You can even return to your childhood and request a specially made jam sandwich!
For the next stop on your foodie adventure, head East towards the shores of Mersea Island. Essex has 350 miles of coastline with each seaside town offering something special. While crowds make their way to Southend on Sea for fish and chips, cockles at Leigh on Sea and candyfloss at Walton-on-the-Naze, Mersea Island remains fairly undeveloped.
Pastel coloured beach huts line the shore, the worn wooden jetty leads you to the water and the discarded oyster shells are a sign of its crop. The West Mersea Oyster Bar and The Company Shed are two, no thrills restaurants, located on the waterfront. Wooden panelled and weathered but with queues out the door year-round.
The oysters are the biggest sell at The West Mersea Oyster Bar; stacks of large shells piled on ice, complete with accompanying garnishes. If oysters aren’t for you, try the seafood platters with crab, cockles, prawns and more or the slabs of freshly fried fish complete with chunky chips.
The Company Shed keeps it simple with dressed crabs, juicy lobster slathered in garlic butter, crab cakes, mussels and scallops. You’re welcome to bring your own bread and wine too, though the white wine from the local vineyard is certainly worth a try.
It’s easy to work your way around Essex feasting from the land. However, should you require a hearty pub roast, head to Constable Country. Walk along the river at Dedham to work up an appetite and eat at one of the village’s cosy pubs.
For Christmas, Essex doesn’t disappoint either. Kelly Bronze turkeys are reared in Danbury, Cole’s Christmas Puddings are manufactured in Saffron Walden and Fairfield Crisps are created using potatoes farmed in Colchester.
The food tour doesn’t stop there, if you’re looking to brush up on your cookery skills, book yourself a place at one of the many cookery schools; The Mistley Kitchen in Manningtee and The Cookery School at Braxted Park, both offer a range of worldly cuisine workshops.