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Not getting out much? Read on for the local lowdown – from hot new takeout menus courtesy of your favourite foodie haunts to cultural exhibitions and property porn, we've got you and the county covered.

OK, so all our usual buzzy go-tos – from pubs and restaurants, to art galleries and boutiques – are sadly still waiting to welcome us back, but there’s plenty of virtual happenings and foodie fun to keep you going in the meantime. Don’t believe us? Here’s what’s happening near you now…

Head to The Hoop for a top takeout menu

This award-winning gastro in the heart of Stock has really upped its game during the pandemic. Not only does it now offer an artisan sourdough line, but its growing collection of themed takeout menus is a thing of food beauty. Think ‘Friday Night Chip Shop’, boasting fresh fish dishes battered in Brentwood-crafted IPA; ‘Saturday Pizza Night’, featuring handmade sourdough bases and a plethora of organic toppings; ‘Sunday Breakfast Club’, for all your brunch essentials (hello, signature breakfast roll/vegan brioche, washed down with a Thorntons Lux hot chocolate); and – new to the clan – a Valentine’s Day hamper for two, comprising a single red rose and Jute bag, selection of Italian meats or handpicked Cornish crabs, a herb-crusted rack of lamb or indulgent fish pie, plus an apple tart and truffled brie. Sounds good, right?! Now, at £80 it’s not exactly cheap, but given that this one’s for V Day, you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll sell out fast– so get your pre-order in, pronto.

Discover ‘My name is not Refugee’ at Firstsite

My name is not Refugee

This popular online exhibition at Colchester’s Firstsite gallery has been extended and will now run until 21 February – which means you’ve still got plenty of time to take it this extraordinary collection of artworks chosen by local refugees and asylum seekers. Created in collaboration with the Arts Council Collection, this exhibit features artists Peter Doig, Mona Hatoum and Rachel Whiteread, and invites you to explore the ideas and stories meaningful to those whose ‘name is not Refugee’. As part of the online offering, you can also watch a short film, ‘Askida “On Hold”’, by Yeşim Tonbaz, who poignantly symbolises the journey of a refugee in this poetic capture. 

See the snowdrops at Beth Chatto Gardens

The Beth Chatto Gardens Essex

It’s an attraction best known for its long lauded gravel plantings, but the award-winning Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead also has a secret winter win up its sleeve: a carpet of delicate snowdrops that reveal themselves each year from January to April. But don’t just take our word for it: the Gardens’ director and galanthophile David Ward is hosting a guided tour of the frosted woodland area and surrounding gardens on 27 February from 11am-12 noon. Tickets cost £20 and, due to limited numbers, will be dished out on a first-come, first-served basis, so get in there quick, my green-fingered friends.

Homing in: meet the most expensive postcodes in Essex

Ever wondered where some of the county’s most exclusive postcodes are located? Well, thanks two separate surveys revealed this week, the guessing game is over – and the results are in. According to research carried out by Zoopla, the average price paid for a house in Essex now stands at £365,582 (with the current average house value at £371,062), but that’s chump change when it comes to properties set in the leafy enclaves of Ingatestone – where the average paid is £759,633; Chigwell (£653,799); Epping (£619,395); Loughton (£606,898); Brentwood (£556,039) and Ongar (£552,867), all of which have long appealed to the London commuter crowd for their speedy transport links into the capital. Surprisingly, though, it’s humble Witham that’s bagged the county’s most expensive street. According to research carried out by Mouseprice, that honour is bestowed to Mope Lane, where the average sale price came in at a cool £3.1m between 2010 and 2020. Not much to mope about there…

Snap up a free bottle of home-delivered vino, courtesy of Estuary Wine Bar 

Calling all fellow oenophiles (yep, we’re looking at you, Mrs ‘Oh, I’ll drink anything as long as it’s wine’): Estuary Wine Bar in Manningtree is currently delivering vino direct to your door (within reason, obviously) – and offering a free bottle of the house white with every mixed case ordered (we’re talking six-bottles strong). Be warned: the offer expires on 31 January, though, so hit them up right now for a case of the good stuff.

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