Summer gives our homes and gardens a whole new lease of life. As we throw open the doors and windows, our homes feel lighter and brighter. Gardens, patios or balconies all feel like an extension of the home.
One of the best things about summer is eating outside. We like to do it as much as possible – whether it’s a cosy dinner for two, or an excuse to entertain all our favourite people. Whatever your gathering, make it special with our tips for effortless summer entertaining, al fresco!
Set the scene and create a little ambience
Tidy the area of the garden you’ll be sitting in and plan some simple decorations. String outdoor fairy lights around on shrubs and trees, and fill jam jars with tea lights. For drama, try an outdoor mirror – it’ll make your garden feel bigger and reflect all those beautiful twinkly lights. To keep the wildlife at bay, burn citronella-scented candles.
Dress your table
Don’t compromise on style just because you’re outside. Choose simple, earthy colours and natural textures: mix wooden and slate boards with linen napkins and tablecloths. Avoid fragile glasses, and choose sturdy wineglasses or tumblers. Decorate your table with flowers, herbs and greenery from your garden – lots of little arrangements are more welcoming than a formal bunch of flowers. Arrange little posies in jam jars, or tiny vases along the table, trying to keep things as fluid and unregimented as possible. Tie a sprig of herbs onto each guest’s napkin – it’ll look beautiful and smell amazing.
Choose simple food designed for sharing
Eating al fresco is supposed to be fun and informal. Avoid serving food that will require you to rush in and out of the kitchen. Choose easy, hassle free food for your table. Create platters of meat, salad, cheese and bread on wooden or slate boards and lay them out for your guests to help themselves.
Make an outdoors drinks area
Set up a little outdoor table or trolley near your main table. Supply it with an ice bucket and plenty of delicious drinks. Allow people to help themselves so there’s no need to keep going back into the house every time you see an empty glass.
Make things comfortable
Beautiful cushions and throws will cheer up tired garden furniture, plus they’ll make your guests feel comfortable and relaxed. Have some extra blankets and scarves ready for when the night grows chilly.
Create a fiery focal point
Add warmth to your evening with a fire pit or barbecue. Maybe you’ll be cooking your food on it, or perhaps you just want it for warmth. Either way, it’ll give your evening a real focus. Sit round it as the sun goes down and indulge your inner child by toasting marshmallows.
No garden? No problem
We’re not all lucky enough to have a garden big enough for entertaining guests. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do outdoor entertaining. It’s really just about a state of mind. Gather your friends and head to the park or beach with a grown-up picnic. Or sit with down with bags of chips and a bottle of champagne – sometimes the simple things are truly the best!