There’s something truly heroic about eating outdoors in Britain, as we either dodge the raindrops, battle against the odds to stop sandwiches curling and ice cream melting, or wave away the wasps.
Although it’s definitely not a venture for the faint-hearted, the rewards are great - after all, who doesn’t have fond memories of lazy days picnicking or sultry evenings dining under a starry night sky?
So take on the outdoors and win with stylish settings that will be a feast for the eyes.
VINTAGE GARDEN PARTY: This classic but simple setting needs only a few ingredients - colourful fabric, a collection of pretty china and blooms picked from the garden. “Buy or make bunting - strips of patterned fabric tied onto a string line work well - and drape it around a garden or along a fence to make the garden look extra pretty,” says Jan Goodchild, marketing manager at Hobbycraft.
GET THE LOOK: No one does that quintessentially English tea party look better than Laura Ashley. For the table: a set of three Flower-Shaped Melamine Dishes, from £12; a set of six Butterfly Tealights, £5. Accessorise with Butterfly Fairy Lights, from £21, and a Hanging Butterfly Tealight Holder, from £15. Add to the effect with Paper Chains in a variety of designs, £4.20; Truly Scrumptious Bunting, £7, and Honeycomb Birdcages, £4.20 each, all from Talking Tables.
If you like making your own effects, be inspired at the Ideas Library at hobbycraft.co.uk.
BOHEMIAN PICNIC: Moroccan style, known for its intricate patterns and jewel-rich colours, is fashionable in homes and works beautifully outdoors. “The heady night bazaars of North Africa and the Middle East inspire this look,” says Tori Finch, author of A Perfect Day For A Picnic (Ryland Peters & Small, £16.99) which is filled with inspiring ideas for settings, as well as 80 recipes.
“To create the scene, hang Moroccan lanterns or patterned sari fabric from trees, or dot them around a ground rug - a Persian style one if you have it, or a large coloured tablecloth works just as well.
“Indian bunting looks very pretty, as do large cushions or pouffes to recline on.”
GET THE LOOK: Set the scene with a set of six vividly-coloured Medina T-light Holders, £14.95, Dotcomgiftshop. Source sari fabrics from markets or specialist websites and add atmospheric lighting with Moroccan-style Solar Metal Star String Lights, £15, available online and in stores, and Selvedge Outdoor Lantern, £25, in stores only, Sainsbury’s.
Low-level seating is a feature of this decadent laid-back style and Graham & Green has a selection of Moroccan leather pouffes, from £139 each.
BEACH BARBECUE: Lazy days by the beach call for al fresco meals, but even if you’re far from the seashore you can still enjoy a coastal-style feast.
“As a nation we’re becoming more adventurous with dining outdoors and there’s a big trend for the garden becoming an extra room in which to entertain and relax,” says Clare Barton at Sainsbury’s.
“Whatever the weather, the great British barbecue is a summer essential - perfect for a coastal or country setting. One of the first decisions to make is whether to cook on gas or charcoal, and this ultimately boils down to budget and personal preference.
“Supporters of gas swear by its ease and fuss-free approach, while charcoal barbecues offer authentic results at a minimal cost.”
GET THE LOOK: Blue and white is a classic combination and instantly evokes the freshness of a seaside setting. Laura Ashley’s Whitby Check dining accessories collection includes a Tablecloth, from £19.60, and Seat Pad, from £20 each.
Red and white features in Sainsbury’s Regatta tableware collection, from £2, a Beach Sign, £6, and a Red Picnic Tin, £12 (available in stores only).
Even if you missed ‘the big one’, flaunt a great catch with shellfish-decorated Serving and Salad Bowls, from £24.95 each, Richard Bramble. Don’t worry about sea breezes blowing out your candles; LED and battery lights are the answer. White Colour Changing Led Lantern, £1, Poundland.