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The best local delis – and nearby picnic spots

Right now, picnics on park benches are THE hottest social event in the calendar. So, dig out your hamper and waterproof blanket, and order your sausage rolls from these seriously slick Essex delis.

CHELMSFORD

A Canteen

The deli: A Canteen

A trendy cafe in the buzz of the city centre, A Canteen offers up everything from premium coffee and crisp white wine, to shareable sourdough pizzas and ‘posh’ fish fillet burgers, as well as contemporary vegan dishes and, of course, a delectable deli complete with premium takeouts. Overlooking the River Chelmer on New London Road, this family run outfit is the relaxed, stylish eatery Insta foodies was made for. 

The picnic spot

Head to nearby Central Park and the adjoining Bell Meadow for acres of lush green grass, shaded spots with river views, and the obligatory ice cream van for afters. At the back of the park under the railway arches, you’ll also find a serene pond to dip your toes into if the weather plays ball.

COLCHESTER

Sip & Tuck Colchester

The deli: Sip & Tuck

Set in the heart of Colchester’s cultural quarter and opposite the town’s historic Castle Park gates, this trendy independent cafe serves up takeaway artisan coffees and teas for long leisurely lunches, as well as a plethora of picnic-friendly treats that change with the seasons. Hit the signature house salad or, if the weather turns, order a warming soup from the hot menu – either way, you’re in safe hands. 

The picnic spot

Head to popular Castle Park for a stroll round the mature gardens and historic castle. Or, eschew the crowds in favour of St Botolph’s Priory, a Norman ruin quietly tucked away on nearby Priory Street. It’s hard to believe this once-elaborate flint and Roman brick monastery still stands on the fringes of Colchester’s bustling town centre, but once you enter its ancient circular folds, you’ll feel a million miles away. What’s more, it’s often completely empty, so you and yours are likely to have this hidden English Heritage gem all to yourselves.

WEST MERSEA

West Mersea Regatta

The deli: Company Shed

Less deli, more rustic fishmonger, Company Shed and nearby Oyster Bar offer up some of the tastiest, freshest fish platters in Europe. Think salty oysters and signature prawns served up with chunky wedges of sourdough, a hit of lemon, and lashing of dry white wine.

The picnic spot

Wedged between the weathered house boats of Mersea’s mudflats and the marshland causeway, ‘Monkey’ is a cracker of a beach that offers up myriad creeks to meander through as you unearth sun-bleached oyster shells from the caramel sands. Little ones will love the ample crabbing spots too, so bring a net and relax with your feast while the kids run wild.

BILLERICAY

Hanningfield Reservoir Cafe

The deli: Hanningfield Reservoir Cafe

With homespun vibes, a family menu, plus spectacular countryside views, this nature-reserve favourite feeds both stomach and soul. Perched waterside in one of the county’s prettiest nature reserves, the homespun-style cafe and deli offers the perfect pitstop before hitting a country trail for your picnic. Choose from sweet and savoury treats (we highly recommend the cheesy scones), or go for a trad lunch dish, including prawn jacket potatoes with salad and ploughman’s. Not up for a long ramble? Grab a pew outdoors in the cafe’s alfresco dining space and watch ducks waddle in and out of the glittering blue. 

The picnic spot

Part of the Essex Wildlife Trust, Hanningfield Reservoir is a nature reserve set across 870 acres of mature woodlands and wild meadows, making it the ideal spot to get lost for the day with your hamper and a good book or three. Walk the labyrinth of foot trails through the ancient oaks and stop off at one of the myriad bird huts (I love Lyster Bird) to watch the swallows dip and swifts dive above gin-clear pools.

LEIGH-ON-SEA

The deli: Stop The World Cafe

With chic marble tables lining the walkway and rustic antiques waiting inside, it’s not hard to see why the stylish set love Leigh’s Stop The World Cafe. Specialising in hearty brunches, healthy lunches and a scrumptious patisserie selection, it’s the perfect seaside deli to fill a premium picnic hamper (or three).

The picnic spot

Head down to the cobbles of Old Leigh’s waterfront and stop there to soak up the yacht-dotted vistas, or take a leisurely seafront potter towards Thorpe Bay, which is well known for its Blue Flag-awarded stretch of coastline. Wander past the picture-postcard beach huts and The Beach Club’s busy watersports hub far enough and you’ll find a patch of quiet, peppled perfection that feels more like you’ve stumbled upon a stretch of rural France than Thorpe Esplanade – in the right light, anyway.

Find more ideas here

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