Tom Cruise fell in love with Brentwood Tom Cruise fell in love with Brentwood

This Essex town became nationally famous thanks to The Only Way Is Essex, the part-soap, part-reality TV series we’ve all come to know as Towie. But there is a lot more to Brentwood than fake tans and agg at the show’s featured Sugar Hut nightspot. Its good looks, great transport links, lively social scene, excellent schools, and location nestled in the heart of the green belt attract a mix of young professionals, young families and downsizers.

Tasty places to eat out

Brentwood High Street is packed with cafes, restaurants and bars, although some of the best places to try are slightly off the beaten track. For a smart dinner, Alec’s Restaurant serves sumptuous seafood in the hamlet of Navestock Side, three miles from Brentwood centre. The Black Horse, in Ongar Road, is a charming, timber frame pub with a great menu. Masons, on Ingrave Road, is a popular spot for dinner or cocktails. Just up the road, The Brentwood Kitchen serves fabulous breakfasts.

Buy bling… and so much more

Although most of the shops opened by Towie stars past and present seem to have closed, there are still plenty of independent stores to check out, including, perhaps inevitably, designer boutiques and beauty salons, in the High Street. If you explore a little further you could find yourself buying fresh produce at Calcott Hall Farm shop (the home-baked cakes are particularly recommended) or adding to your plant collection at The Greenhouse. And if you need to do a big shop, the massive Bluewater shopping centre is a 25-minute drive away.

Did Tom go wild for the green open spaces, the golf or the skiing?

It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to open space, since Brentwood is surrounded by green belt land. There are several golf clubs and courses to join, you could visit the animals at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, or meet the deer at Weald Country Park. Thorndon Country Park is another lovely place for a walk. The park was used as a location for scenes in the latest Mission: Impossible movie, starring Tom Cruise, who was so impressed with the town that he reportedly called the mayor to tell him so.

If you want something a little higher octane than a walk, then you could try Brentwood Park Ski & Snowboard Centre.

Independent Brentwood Craft Brewery family business producing gluten free Vegan-friendly real ale in cask keg and bottles Essex
Thorndon Country Park in Brentwood, Essex.

Brentwood’s very own festival

On wet days you could pay a trip to the Brentwood Brewing Company, have a look around Brentwood Cathedral, or see what’s on at Brentwood Theatre. Each summer the Brentwood Centre hosts the annual Brentwood Festival, featuring live music, real ale and street food.

Great schools guaranteed

Families gravitate towards Brentwood because it has some great schools. Most of the town’s primary schools have at least a “good” report from Ofsted, and St Thomas of Canterbury (infants) and St Helen’s Catholic Infant School are both rated “outstanding” by the schools watchdog. Older students can go on to a high-performing group of senior schools, led by Becket Keys Church of England Free School, also regarded as “outstanding” by Ofsted.

The Crossrail bonus

The fastest way to get to and from London is via Shenfield station, which is just to the northeast of town. Services to Liverpool Street take from 23 minutes. Shenfield will also be the easternmost stop on the Crossrail line from next year, which means a direct link to central London and Canary Wharf is on the way. Trains from Brentwood’s own station take around 40 minutes to Liverpool Street, or you could be at the seaside in Southend in under an hour. For journeys by car, the M25 is around two miles away from town.