Al Fresco Dining is Here to Stay

Britain’s longstanding love of the great outdoors has taken on a distinct culinary flair over recent years. Many of Britain’s most iconic meals and food scenes typically take place outdoors, with quaint English picnics, fish and chips or Cornish pasties enjoyed on the seafront, afternoon tea served in the garden, cricket match teas and sports day sandwiches on the village green, back-garden barbecues and pub garden lunches forming an important part of our food identity.

One of the few positives we can take from the COVID-19 pandemic is our changed relationship with nature and with food. Mealtimes and time spent outdoors were two things we looked forward to. Baking, daily walks, takeaway coffees, sharing food with neighbours, and later, picnics in the park, dining al fresco at restaurants and hosting friends and family in the garden all played a key part in how we spent our time and stayed connected with other people.

“At Social Pantry, we increasingly get requests that embrace the great outdoors”

Whilst, thankfully, days defined by the pandemic are largely in the past, summers defined by good food and time spent outdoors are here to stay. At Social Pantry, we’re experts in al fresco dining. Summer is synonymous with wedding and party season and whilst luxurious marquees have always been a popular event option, we increasingly get requests that embrace the great outdoors. Think al-fresco wedding breakfasts, lawn drinks receptions, outdoor food stations, barbecue-based events, garden parties, afternoon teas, secret forest supper clubs and dinner under the stars.

2022 is set to be a summer of outdoor dining, both out and about thanks to the recent news of the government extending pavement licenses for a further 12 months to help the hospitality industry recover, and at home heralded in by the four-day bank holiday for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The UK has a rich history of organised street parties to celebrate national events, starting in 1919 with ‘Peace Teas’ at the end of WWI, which were afternoon teas organised as treats for children who had endured these times of hardship. On 8 May 1945, millions of people celebrated VE Day and the end of the Second World War with street parties consisting of street dressing, afternoon teas, banquets and parades, and the tradition has carried on today. Similarly, in 1953, the nation celebrated the Queen’s coronation with street parties all over the country, and many years on, we continue to mark the anniversary this way. In 2012, around 2 million people held street parties for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and a decade on, we expect the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will be marked with equal pomp and circumstance.

This year, to coincide with the Jubilee, The Big Jubilee Lunch will take place on Sunday 5 June. An initiative founded by the Eden Project in 2009 is the culmination of an effort to encourage as many people as possible to have lunch with their neighbours as a simple act of community, friendship and fun.

“The English pastoral has gripped the British imagination”

When you bring people together to celebrate something as nationally unifying as a royal celebration, in spaces open and available to everyone, whether in the streets, a park or another outdoor space – and add food designed for sharing into the equation, something magical happens. One only has to look to the success of Great British Bake Off to see how the English pastoral has gripped the British imagination, driving our nostalgia for togetherness, community, green and pleasant lands, and reaffirming our tendency for a waste-not-want-not, make-do-and-mend attitude. These values speak to everything we do at Social Pantry. We are experts in gathering a crowd, throwing a party, and putting on a generous spread for everyone to enjoy, all whilst operating a zero-waste kitchen and taking environmental sustainability and social responsibility seriously. As such, over the coming summer, we are going to be sharing lots of ideas, information, and inspiration on hosting al fresco events in a stylish and sustainable manner. Starting with a guide on How To Host The Ultimate Garden Party in time for the Jubilee bank holiday weekend, and moving on to eco-friendly barbecues, sustainable festival-going tips and tricks, and more. We hope you’ll join us as we embrace a summer celebrating delicious food, excellent company, and the great outdoors!