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Dining Al-Fresco

Eating al-fresco is and always has been a quintessentially European way of dining, bringing together the magic of nature with great food, drink, and company. Despite outdoor dining being a little more commonplace in these warmer climates, it doesn’t stop us Brits from enjoying a good meal beyond the confines of our dining rooms.

Wander through any European city, town or village on a clear, late summer's evening and you will hear the murmur of companionable voices and the clinking of glasses and cutlery. You will probably smell the food before you see it being devoured at outdoor restaurants and cafes or piled high on family dining tables, set under a candlelit trellis of vines as the dusk descends.

But it was less than a hundred years ago when we Brits were famed for staging possibly the world's most stupendous picnics!

Historians believe that the tradition of elegant, outdoor dining, (the first picnics), evolved in Britain during the middle ages when hunting parties became fashionable among the wealthier classes. In Victorian times, the picnic stopped being the prerogative of the upper-classes and soon became a favourite dining choice with anyone who could afford it. It was a very grand affair - neither cheap nor casual, let alone thrown together. Catering instructions for forty guests provided by the famous Mrs Beeton included cold roast beef, four meat pies, four roast chickens, two roast ducks, four dozen cheesecakes, one large cold plum pudding, beer, claret, sherry, and brandy, along with all the essential equipment of a fine dining room!

In today's frantically busy world, organizing an event on the scale of a Beeton-style picnic might seem a little out of reach. At least, for the everyday lunch break. However, our love of elegant, outdoor dining has never really gone away. A quick sandwich in the park might well be the easiest option on many occasions, but stepping this up a notch and adding a little Studio William flair to the proceedings is an easy way to bring back the wonders al-fresco dining has to offer. Investing in your very own sample set of your favourite Studio William range allows you to invite a little Michelin starred prowess to even the humblest picnic. Every piece of Studio William cutlery has been meticulously designed to truly enhance your dining experience, whatever or wherever that may be.

Now that summer is here, the outdoor dining scene is really heating up. At last, there are plenty of opportunities to escape the house and organise an outdoor get together. But this time, why not take a leaf out of Mrs Beeton’s book and prepare a veritable feast to enjoy with friends in your favourite green space, accompanied by all the little details that make an indoor meal exceptional?

Combining the beauty of nature with the elegance of fine dining can make for a tremendous and truly unique meal out. Just as with restaurant dining, striking the right ambience is essential. Outdoors, this may be a little harder to fully control (which can be both good and bad!), but there are things you can do to make your alfresco dining experience extra special.

Find the Perfect Backdrop

First of all, choose the perfect spot. Perhaps you have a favourite park, garden, beach or leafy riverbank that you find beautiful? Or maybe you have an ample back garden that you could set up as your centre stage? Don’t shy away from decorating your outdoor space with lights, candles, blankets, and even table cloths and napkins. And you could even consider creating a playlist suitable for the food you’ll be serving and the company present if you’re dining in an outdoor space that allows this.

Vol-au-vents, Be Gone!

When it comes to the food, don’t let yourself be duped into feeling as though outdoor dining is reserved exclusively for sandwiches and salad pots. Admittedly, recreating your favourite restaurant fare with several courses plated up and served might be a little tricky. But it’s easier than you think to lay on a spread of culinary delights, which will provide a feast for all the senses.

Try loading up your dining area with high-quality deli and farmer’s market ingredients - they make for a wonderful smorgasbord of colours, textures, and flavours. Think big chunk of oozing honeycomb alongside fresh fruit, an impressive cheese board, charcuterie and dips. Raw food and vegan salads go down a treat. You could even get a hog roast or throw some fine fillet steaks or organic chicken breasts on the BBQ for rustic, hearty additions.

Add Your Favourite Tipples

Staying squarely in the spirit of a good British knees-up, no garden party, BBQ or picnic would be complete without popping a bottle or two.

these days, there's a great selection of organic, gluten-free and vegan-friendly options too, from fruit ciders, local British wines and ales, and cold-pressed juices by independent artisans, that we love far more than anything you could pull from a supermarket specials aisle.

Ditch the Disposables.

When you've gone to so much trouble creating the perfect menu, it seems a shame to serve it all up on floppy paper plates or alongside villainous plastic bottle, cups and cutlery.

Instead, reach for the bone china and your trusty set of Studio William cutlery to add true decadence to your al-fresco feast.

The Super Luxury Picnic is Here!

If you really want to crank up the "posh", then why not go all out and have your picnic prepared by a top chef, restaurant or grocery store?

Whilst companies such as the Luxury Hamper Company will supply everything you need for decadent dining on the decking, The Milestone Hotel offers a Picnic Feast in Kensington Gardens, served in traditional wicker baskets.

Or how would you like to be waited on as you sip a Pimms in the Park? Fortnum's luxury picnic hamper comes delivered by a liveried footman!

It seems warmer summers and the lure of cooler evenings are set to become the norm, with outdoor dining set to become as characteristically British as was, once, the old-fashioned picnic!

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