A fresh air affair

Read on for tips on organising the perfect al fresco dinner party and to find out how to win beautiful Laura Ashley 'Lustre' glassware, or a £100 Laura Ashley gift card.

Al Fresco Dining

One of our delicious al fresco dinner party menus. You can win the beautiful Laura Ashley 'Lustre' glassware, or a £100 Laura Ashley gift card if you register before August 31st.

The term al fresco may be Italian, and it's true that the opportunities to dine in the open air are more plentiful in Tuscany than Tunbridge Wells, but in the last few years it's grown hugely in popularity in the UK - we Brits are determined not to leave al fresco dining up to the Mediterraneans!

“Employ a few of these simple tips and you'll have your back garden transformed into an atmospheric outdoor dining room in no time”It's typically a relaxed and casual way to dine, so we think planning an al fresco dinner party should be that way too. Thankfully our al fresco dinner party menus make the process straightforward and hassle free.

You can make use of your garden no matter what the size. Al fresco dining isn't much harder than throwing an indoor dinner party (okay, so you're at the mercy of the weather, but it's sensible to have a straightforward contingency plan: move the event indoors if you need to!). For a real sense of occasion employ a few of these simple tips and you'll have your back garden transformed into an atmospheric outdoor dining room in no time.

WIN beautiful lustre glassware and gift cards from Laura Ashley

Make sure you're registered as a Resourceful Cook user. Every user registered by the 31st August will automatically get entered in a draw to win the beautiful Laura Ashley 'Lustre' glassware featured in our al fresco photography or Laura Ashley gift cards worth £20 and £100. All you need to do is register as a Resourceful Cook user here.

Setting the scene

So, on to the practicalities: you'll want to place your table near enough your house so that you don't have to carry teetering plates long distances, but it's also good for privacy from neighbours too. Eating a proper dinner involves a bit more sitting around than a barbecue, so you may find yourself sitting in garden furniture for quite a while longer than you usually do - you may want to pad those seats. Of course if you don't have garden furniture, but you're really confident about the weather prospects, you can bring out some indoor furniture.

Lights, camera...

Jellied BerriesYou don't want guests to be in the spotlight but you don't want to be eating in the dark either. A few candles or lanterns create the perfect atmosphere as the sun goes down and stars start to pop out. Ideally arrange to have enough natural flame light so that you don't need to rely on electric outdoor lights if they can be avoided - strings of tiny twinkling electric lanterns and light nets are very pretty, but realising half way through dinner that you'll need the security flood light to see what you're eating will be a real atmosphere killer.

Plenty of natural flame light also increases the possibility that you won't need to rely on the harsh flash lit photography if you're recording the event on film. Finally, don't be tempted to bring indoor lighting outside, especially if the weather is unreliable - the risk isn't worth it.


If it's windy you may want to weigh down napkins with cutlery or place everything in a basket for guests to grab when needed. An unexpected rain shower shouldn't necessarily trigger a permanent move indoors. It's a shame to watch the evening sunshine bathe the garden from indoors after retreating from what turned out to be just a brief shower. It makes sense to arrange to be able to briefly protect the food and furniture from light rain, and be able to resume proceedings once it's passed over if you can.

Table settings

“Remember, it's al fresco, it's fun and anything goes.”Table settings don't have to be fussy - a brightly coloured table cloth and a simple flower arrangement is all that's needed to set the mood. The main focus of an outdoor meal will be the food, company and atmosphere, and even the humblest of gardens on a summer evening has more going for it than the fussiest, fine-dining, table-settings. In fact, it's fair to say that you needn't worry if you don't have enough matching wine glasses or plates - this is one instance where you can mix it up and no one will give it a second thought. Remember, it's al fresco, it's fun and anything goes.

All of that said, there's something delightful and memorable about a beautifully staged meal outside - fine china and crystal take on a gorgeous lustre in the evening sunshine and it's wonderful to encounter a beautiful table setting outside (especially if your host didn't give the plan away before hand).

Fresco Feeling, Fresco Food

Since al fresco is generally a casual affair we've designed our al fresco dinner party menus around the idea that these dishes can be easily prepared, prepped or marinated the night before and served chilled or cooked quickly whenever you're ready for it. We've got a barbeque focused menu for those who want to go the traditional summer route, as well as menus that can be simply cooked in the kitchen and brought outside to be enjoyed. We've included Panzanella- a classic chilled Italian salad, herb crusted fish with summer vegetables and cool and fruity desserts like sorbet and summer berry pavlova. Try our al fresco meal plans for four people, six people and eight people.

Bon appétit!

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