BE it the heart-warming reassurance of a traditional dish, an exciting vegan menu, or the smooth slice through a tender steak, there’s nothing quite like a great restaurant.

Eating out has never been so popular, but throughout the pandemic many had to try and recreate their favourite dishes at home – with varying degrees of success.

At the same time, the hospitality sector itself was struggling with dwindling income due to the constant lockdowns and ever-changing rules and restrictions.

Some, however, adapted, and implemented new takeaway services which had previously been reserved for more fast-food-style outlets.

Delivering their delicious delights to the comfort of our own homes was good, but there is nothing really quite like sitting at a table and being waited on.

Thankfully, restaurants throughout the country and in the likes of north Essex have reopened to the public – but which ones are some of the must-visits?

The Bell Inn Bistro, Thorpe-le-Soken


Having recently scooped two AA Rosettes for culinary excellence there really is no better time to visit this four-star establishment.

Nestled in the quaint village of Thorpe-le-Soken, The Bell Inn Bistro’s surroundings are just as pleasant as its highly-rated and delicious food.

The facility, which serves up breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and evening meals, was last year named TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best winner.

The venue also previously appeared in Channel 4’s Four In A Bed, collecting the top prize after impressing three other restaurant owners. 

Those who have visited themselves clearly agree, and the eatery now has an impressive rating of 4.5 stars out of five from 175 reviews.

Thai Up At The Quay, Harwich


Although temporarily closed until March, Thai Up At The Quay will once again become the go-to place for top quality Asian cuisine when it reopens hungry customers.

Located in Eastgate Street, Harwich, this restaurant is considered to be the best in the area and boasts a 5-star rating from 675 reviews.

Opened in 2008, the menu is comprised of authentic Thai food which is cooked fresh to order using only what is said to be only the best ingredients. 

One recent visitor, received the highest-standard of service, said: “It never fails to impress us and the food is absolutely amazing – it is absolutely mouth-watering.”

The Wooden Fender, Colchester


Much like The Bell Inn Bistro, this restaurant, positioned in Colchester Road, also received a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award last year – so it’s definitely popular.

With a rating of 4.5 from just shy of 1,000 reviews, it is also classed as the number one restaurant in the whole of Colchester – a huge indicator given the competition.

Serving up everything from can’t-go-wrong British pub dishes to gastropub delights The Wooden Fender is an all-round treat for the tastebuds with a top atmosphere. 

Each plate is meticulously presented and coloured with vibrant extras and sides which taste just as good as they look.

The Alma Inn, Harwich 


Challenging Thai Up At The Quay is Harwich’s second best restaurant, The Alma Inn, which has 814 reviews, of which nearly 600 are classed as ‘excellent’.

Having been at the centre of Harwich life since the 1850s serving ale to citizens, sailors, soldiers and farmers, The Alma Inn’s longevity is a huge testament to its quality. 

Offering food all week, including seafood, pub classics and vegan options, and located minutes from the station and moments from the quay, it really is a desirable destination.

“A very old and quirky Inn, but it was really good and the staff were all very friendly and helpful,” said one recent customer. “The menu was very varied and the food we had was great.”

Restaurant 43, Great Bentley


Finally, we have Great Bentley’s Restaurant 43, one of just four restaurants in the village, admittedly, but the best one, nonetheless.

Boasting contemporary cuisine and a delicious Sunday roast dinner, this eatery excels with an average rating of 4.5 on TripAdvisor from more than 700 reviews.

Located in The Green, family-run Restaurant 43 also harbours a stunning outdoor space which is perfect for enjoying a delicious dish on a summer’s evening. 

It has also recently been highly praised for it vegan menu, with one visitor saying: “Restaurant 43 has a dedicated vegan menu and the food is incredible.
“The atmosphere was very festive. They have wonderful live music and the staff are very friendly.”