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Holidaying from home: dining alfresco

We know that getting away isn’t easy right now, so we’ve put together a blog series helping you to find your own little bit of paradise, right here in London. We’ve got plenty of suggestions, from eating and drinking like you’re on holiday through to entertaining your children and setting up the perfect alfresco dining spot in your garden: enough to make you take a look at your home with fresh eyes this summer.

Copacabana garden set-up

Dining alfresco- breakfast by the pool, a picnic lunch on the beach and dinner out and about- is usually one of the highlights of any summer holiday. As most of our travel plans are on hold for the time being, we’ve taken a look at how to create an equally good eating experience at home in London. Whether you’re out in your garden, enjoying your balcony, or getting creative with an indoor picnic, read on for ways to create an at-home ambience to rival your favourite holiday destination.

Refresh your seating

A mismatched or incomplete dining set isn’t going to be conducive to a holiday mood, so start here if you need to refresh your outdoor furniture. For settling into a long lunch or dinner in the garden, you can’t get better than this luxurious eight-seater corner dining set from Made. For those after a natural look, John Lewis has a lovely rattan look four-seater dining set, while Scandi minimalists will be all over this option from Cox & Cox. Want to ensure a cheerful garden whatever the weather?  This more affordable option, also from Made, comes in six different colours.

If it’s the pre (and post)-dinner drinks that you’re missing most, may we suggest a compact alfresco bar from John Lewis. Alternatively, this drinks trolley from Ikea means you’ll be able to top yourself up without leaving your seat- heaven! Looking for a change from your usual evening tipple? Our blog post on drinking like you’re on holiday (coming soon) has plenty of ideas.

Those blessed with a balcony might be after something a little more compact. Garden trading has an incredibly chic teak and steel set for two, or this fully foldable set which comes in a cheerful array of colours. Argos also has a foldable set which is affordable and comes in a luxurious sage green, perfect for those who want stylish dining on a budget.

No garden or balcony? There’s still no reason why you can’t recreate an alfresco dining experience at home. Opening your windows wide and having an indoor picnic is a great way to entertain children and adults alike- and no need to worry about the weather. Create a luxe boho setting to rival Ibiza or Marrakech with Oliver Bonas’ woven rug, use Aussie brand Sunnylife’s Monteverde picnic blanket to bring the tropics to you, or have  Argos’ woven plastic rug at hand for any messy eaters. Finally, add a cushion or two for comfort. Wayfair’s Tauber design is currently on sale, or we like this offering from Anthropologie.

Elevate your table setting

Putting a bit of effort into your table setting is a perfect way to bring it up to international restaurant standards and will make dining at home feel like a treat. A tablecloth easily takes your meal from everyday to holiday: this cream linen tablecloth from Soho Home is a perfect option for those who want to splurge, or pick up this pink and blue vintage floral option from The Table Cloth Company. A fantastic alternative for children is this world map tablecloth from Kidly, which comes with washable fabric pens to colour the map in; it’s sure to keep them entertained all evening while you relax. Looking for more kid-friendly activities? Check out our post on how to bring the beach to your garden, which is full of ideas to give your little ones a holiday experience at home.

Moving on to tableware, H&M home has a range of inexpensive napkins and place mats that will suit any interior style. We also like Made’s array of serving dishes, and these fun cocktail glasses from Liberty will be perfect for your alfresco quarantinis. A bunch of blooms from east London florists That Flower Shop, who are currently running deliveries on Fridays and Saturdays, will enhance that special on-holiday feeling.

Make use of flattering lighting

London’s night sky may not be quite as impressive as one out in the tropics, but fortunately we can cheat our way to something similar. Lights4fun has a great selection of fairy lights that will look great strung out in the garden or arranged over a table or picnic blanket. John Lewis’s solar-powered garden lantern is a nice portable option that will look good indoors or outdoors, or pick up a stylish wicker-effect version from Argos.

Candles are a great way to recreate a romantic evening abroad. Ikea has the ultimate bargain in the form of 100 unscented tea lights for £3, or choose this colourful set from Habitat which will look great dotted along a table. If you want to go all out, Soho Home has a gorgeous set in pistachio or jade. Use their Bruyere candle holder for a luxurious finish.

Prepare for the weather

While our British weather isn’t known for being the most alfresco dining-friendly, there are steps you can take to enjoy your meal regardless. If the sun’s out, sit in the shade of a tie-dye parasol from Anthropologie, Homebases’s cheerful coral number, or a simple white option from Wayfair. If you’re without a garden or balcony, a fan will recreate a cooling sea breeze: we think that Dyson still remains the best-of-the-best, or if you don’t want to spend quite as much GeoSmartPro’s smartfan can be controlled by your phone.

On the other end of the spectrum, summer evenings in London are known for getting a little chilly. We like this fire pit from Heat Outdoors (just be sure to burn dry wood), or Argos’ stylish black offering. If you’re after a lower-effort way to stay warm, John Lewis has an electric patio heater or Primrose has a larger option that heats from above.

A smart throw will be perennially useful long after summer is over. Soho Home has a chic charcoal rug, or Habitat’s mustard-striped cotton throw is currently on sale, as is Zara Home’s woven linen blanket: we’d be happy to be wrapped up in any of these while sipping on an alfresco cocktail. All you need now is the food- and our blog post on eating like you’re on holiday can help with that.

Enjoyed this article? Head over to the Marsh & Parsons blog for more suggestions on bringing your summer holiday home. If you’re making the most of a summer in London, we want to see- tag us using @marshandparsons #mylittlebitofparadise

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