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The Restaurateurs Have Moved Their Acclaimed Stark Destination to Mersea and Share Their Guide to the Essex Island's Best Restaurants and Cafes
Stark Mersea

After making waves in Kent with their Michelin star restaurant Stark, Chef Ben and Sophie Crittenden have relocated the unique dining experience to Mersea Island.

Stark broke the mould of traditional Michelin restaurants - there is loud music, dark walls, no white table clothes or frills and famously, Chef Ben works alone in the kitchen of the intimate venue, meticulously crafting the frequently changing, seasonal six-course tasting menus.


It started life as a tiny sandwich shop on an inconspicuous street in Broadstairs, which Ben and Sophie transformed into a destination dining spot. Ben won The Good Food Guide’s Chef to Watch award in Stark's second year, and it became the only Michelin star restaurant in Thanet by its third year, which they retained since 2019.

Stark restaurant

Described as “dazzling” by Good Food Guide editor, Elizabeth Carter and “the real deal” in a glowing Guardian review by one of Britain’s most revered critics, Marina O’Loughlin, Stark has become a Mecca for foodies over the past eight years.


The husband and wife duo’s long-term dream has always been to settle in the idyllic, Essex coastal area where Sophie grew up, and the new Mersea restaurant offers nearly twice the covers of the previous, 12 seat restaurant.


Their motto is “good food, laid bare” and the new restaurant offers the same pared back decor and skilled flavour combinations using seasonal ingredients, as Ben says: “If it’s not in season, it has no flavour and no right to be on the plate.”

Stark Mersea Island

Expect £90 set menus featuring two meat dishes, like the duck liver parfait, confit leg, ginger bread, hazelnut and apricot; two fish courses, like mackerel, cucumber dashi, lardo and borage, and two desserts, like the clean and fresh goat's curd, pistachio sorbet, lemon puree and grape.


Ben almost left the restaurant business in 2015 due to a bout of depression, which he discusses unflinchingly in his must-read book, Stark - an important insight into mental health and cheffing, with gorgeous recipes. 


But the 2016 launch of the original Stark saved him, allowing Ben to continue his passion for food, while having a better work/life balance for him and Sophie with their three young children, which now continues in Mersea Island, the location for their delicious Insider Guide, below.

Stark, East Road, East Mersea, Colchester, Essex CO5 8TQ



Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger coffee

Wild Ginger serves good coffee and a fantastic honey cake, so we often pop in there for a quick pick-me-up.

Wild Ginger, 4 Barfield Rd, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8QT


Mersea Barns

Mersea Barns is our next door neighbour and they serve a great menu of breakfast and brunch options. Staff are very friendly and helpful and you have the choice of inside and outside dining - there's even a lovely garden play area for children, which ours love when we pop in on our days off.

Mersea Barns, East Rd, East Mersea, Colchester CO5 8TQ


The Dukes Seafood

The Dukes Seafood is great for our family as it's al fresco dining and is very relaxed and informal, which we like. They're a family run restaurant and fishmonger, based right on the estuary. And they serve excellent hot and cold options, as well as lovely seafood platters.

The Dukes Seafood, Coast Rd, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8NA



Titash is a lovely neighbourhood Indian restaurant. It's great for dinner, either for a group meal, a chilled date night, quick bite or even takeaway, depending on what you fancy .

Titash Restaurant, 40B High St, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8QA


The White Hart Inn
white hart inn mersea

The White Hart Inn is a lovely pub with rooms, near the coast. The drinks menu is excellent and there's a courtyard terrace to enjoy them, on sunny days. It's also well worth making the trip for their food.

White Hart Inn, 1 High St, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8QD


West Mersea Town Regatta
west Mersea town regatta

Mersea Regatta has been running since 1838 and is a fantastic day out for the whole family, whether you're local or not. You don't have to be into sailing to enjoy the races and atmosphere. Parking can get pretty crazy during regatta though, so we'd definitely recommend comfortable shoes, as you may have a long walk down to the front where all the action is.

West Mersea Town Regatta, Mersea Island, Essex

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