Because we’ll never have guaranteed sunny climes in our country, outdoor dining is still a novelty for us Brits. And although most people don’t have a magical pond or weeping willow tree in their garden, it’s still possible to recreate a carefree, dreamy summer picnic style dinner party in your own garden for your loved one (or just a great mate).
Regardless of whether you live in a 60’s style council house or Edwardian mansion, there are simple steps anyone can take to dine outdoors in style and make it a romantic occasion for all involved.
Bunting was great for street parties at the many royal celebrations we’ve had over the past few years, as well as Ascot, which we attended this year, but it seems a bit overdone. The great thing, though, it that it turns any garden into a magical space for two.
The idea and look of bunting is to replicate a fun, kitsch style picnic. If you have a tree in your garden, hang patterned paper or fabric lanterns in clusters from the boughs. Or draped pastel coloured ribbons from fence to fence, using lighting (such as fairly lights, or outdoor candles) to link the areas.
If you’re a fan of all Asian, hanging origami and strings of coloured tissue tassels look amazing at night time, giving a proper party atmosphere. Or for a more floral option, hand vases with in-bloom roses tied with twine.
Dining in style
What type of meal and drinks suit an outdoor setting?
Don’t worry about a full dinner menu. Think about putting together light canapés or bowl food, which are easy to make and can work wonderfully in place of sarnies and nibbles. Thai dishes with rice or noodles are great – have a look at Waitrose or M&S’ options if you’re pressed for time (no one needs to know).
If you’re set on nibbles, summer picnics and soirées are made for tasters. Think salmon bites, bruschetta, and cake pops, big enough to eat all in one go. Apologies for the BuzzFeed links, but, y’know.
Is asking the love of your life to sit on picnic blankets too much? It shouldn’t be, however think about their needs. Are they on their feet all day at work? Do they have a sore back or trapped nerves?
As an alternative to sitting on a blanket, which can be uncomfortable after a while and impossible if your other half is wearing a dress, large feather square pillows or beanbags are a great alternative. Even better if you can source a low table and place some lantern candles on.
It’s more than likely going to be a bit blustery, let’s be honest. Are candles practical?
Rather than ditch them, think about the ambiance. Candles create mood, a closed atmosphere and romance. Candles are great as long as you have low wind conditions and use suitable glassware to put them in.
If not, you can use real wax artificial candles. These are very effective. Bamboo cane oil lamps are a great addition to a tiki party or midnight picnic. They are fun, authentic and can be quite bright which is great if you are planning to keep the amount of light fittings to a minimum.
What happens if it’s cold and rainy?
Chilly summer evenings are quite common in the UK. There are a large range of patio heaters and directional hanging heaters which usually combat this problem, but these can be pricey, and who wants to cut an evening short to lug a heater back tot he hire shop?
So, have a stack of fleece blankets to hand. Simple really, and perfect for snuggling.
Tables and other knick-knacks
What about the table settings? If you’re having a picnic on a blanket, find a silver tray, and some crockery and glassware to pop everything on. You don’t need to spend a fortune, head to a charity shop to pick up a few bits and pieces while you’re out picking up your ingredients (or the ready meals).
A vintage tea pot and china glasses are a great way to sip your champers in style!
Thanks to Tesco for the inspiration (you can send champers in the post, right? Right?!)