8 stylish local restaurants for autumn
With swanky restaurants in Epping and Brentwood, a contemporary Turkish menu, and swathe of emerald booth seating, Pivaz is a dining destination worthy of post-lockdown celebrations. Serving lunch, dinner and cocktails, bag a table and hit the martini cocktail list before loading up on the best baba ganoush your tastebuds can take. Also recommended: potted plant inspo – we don’t know who their florist is, but we’re all over the Insta-worthy interiors.
Slap bang in the heart of Leigh-on-Sea’s buzzy cafe culture, Food by John Lawson is every mindful diner’s dream. Think locally sourced organic dishes, a sleek aesthetic, and damn fine flavours to boot. Lawson’s tangible focus on sustainability is as refreshing as his seasonal tasting menus, which centre around nutritious fare free from gluten, dairy and refined sugars. Vegan? You’re in safe hands. This place is all about serving honest food that works in harmony with the environment and your body. Oh, and the Sunday lunch is paired with free-flowing organic cava too. We love.
Want the wow factor after months of eating something beige and lap-based? Your glamorous table awaits. Decked out in the style of a sumptuous Japanese garden, this vibrant dinner/drinks hotspot in Colchester is one for the gram. Think slick leather booths, a blossom of Asia-inspired blooms hanging overhead, and Pan-Pacific sharing platters your party will love. Kick back with a cocktail and soak up the sheer extravagance of eating without your pyjamas on (although you could totally rock your hottest silk wares with a heel here).
A quintessentially British establishment nestled in the Navestock countryside, everything about Alec’s screams romance. From the roaring log fires and elegant table service, to the premium wine list and softly-lit interiors, this Brentwood bar and grill is perfect for diners eager for a dose of gastronomic class. Fine dining comes as standard here and you’ll have a tough job choosing between plates. My tip? Cromer dressed crab to start; monkfish and scallops for main. But then again, I am a water baby…
This opulent Chigwell institution is positively dripping in decadent decor and celebrity diners (recent champagne swillers include Emma Bunton, Rio Ferdinand and the entire cast of TOWIE), but don’t let that put you off: Sheesh gives seriously good party. Lamb and chicken kebabs cooked on the barbie are king here, as are tables loaded with liquor. Obviously the vibe is still socially distanced and dining is out on the terrace, but if you want to put the bling back into eating out, you’ll bag it here.
Famed for serving fresh sustainable seafood, Smith’s of Ongar will feel like a warm, welcoming hug after months of slaving away in the kitchen/living off Super Noodles and pizza. Tucked up in the parish folds of Epping Forest District, this elegant eatery is all exposed brickwork, roaring log fires and attentive staff. The cocktails aren’t exactly shabby either, with award-winning mixologist Alex Turner shaking up a storm in the upstairs bar. Food wise, Smith’s offers up a wealth of winning gastro plates, but its signature line-caught sea bass is first class.
A chic lounge serving refined surf and turf options, Bourgee in Chelmsford is reopening its doors on the 17 July and taking reservations now – which means that longed-for lobster/steak dinner is yours for the booking. Also back is Bourgee’s popular bottomless brunch menu, so slink into a sexy cream booth with your gal pals and kick the weekend off in celebratory style (I’ll take a side of avo with that fizz, please).