Plan The Perfect Picnic

Create the perfect picnic with TOAST

With the summer still going strong and sunshine promised in the weeks ahead, it’s time to get out there and soak up as much vitamin D as possible. What better way to while away the afternoon than when armed with a picture-perfect picnic? Read on for TOAST’s guide to unleashing your inner picnic prowess…

There are few things in life that we Brits enjoy more than spending time surrounded by nature in the glorious sunshine (hopefully). Sitting on a rug under a big tree, with a group of friends and a spread of scrumptious food is a truly idyllic way to spend a summery afternoon.

The French word ‘pique nique’ first popped up back in 1692 - a term signifying an outing with food, where a group would dine together, but each guest would bring their own dish or wine; the equivalent to BYOB, and what nowadays is referred to as a “pot-luck” party. Early in the 19th century, a group of fashionable Londoners formed a group called the 'Picnic Society' – each member was expected to ‘perform’ and provide a share of the entertainment and refreshments with no single particular host.

The concept evolved and moved al fresco, and as time moved on they became more of a refined and elegant pastime, enjoyed by the upper echelons of society.  After the French Revolution in 1789, Royal Parks became open to the public for the very first time and picnicking within them became a popular activity, but the principle of mutual contribution remained – something that is still a key feature of the modern-day picnic.

Today, the practice of picnicking is as popular as ever but without limitations. Whether you’re heading off to Goodwood or simply to the bottom of the garden, now’s the time to pick a pretty spot and start planning!

Here are some of TOAST’s top tips for achieving picnic perfection!


Share the load

First and foremost, if you’re sticking with tradition and planning to get your guests to contribute to a group picnic, plan the essential list of food and divvy up who is bringing what in advance, to avoid being left with 25 sausage rolls and not much else. This doesn’t have to be too restrictive, you can set out categories per person as simple as; Something sweet, something savoury or something salad-y!

You can also be as specific as you like, but sometimes it’s fun to leave it open and see what you end up with (as long as you can trust your fellow cooks)! If you’ve decided to host and prepare everything yourself, then make sure you know how many people you're catering for and what their dietary requirements are so that you have enough to feed everyone. Promising a spread fit for a king that ends up being a few soggy cucumber sandwiches won’t be well received.

As the experts at The Little Picnic Company recomend: "Picnic's are supposed to be fun so it's whatever works best for you!"

Keep It fresh

The key to a stress-free (and delicious) picnic is to prepare your chosen foods as much as you can before leaving the house. Once you’re settled on your rug in the sunshine the last thing you’ll want to do is start chopping, mixing and prepping, which isn’t always easy in the great outdoors, so do as much as you can before you set off.

If you’re making Pimms, for example, chop all of your lovely fresh fruit and pop it into a container ready to add to a jug, making for far less faff when you are out and about. Decant olives and dips into storage boxes making it easy to serve. Pre-slice quiches and mix-up salads in advance, but pack small pots of dressing and seasoning to add (empty jam jars work perfectly), so that the leaves don’t go soggy.

Keep it cool

Providing the weather is good, your food and drink will be exposed to warmer conditions the second you leave the house. Make sure you have enough cooling compartments in your carriers and containers to keep your meats, cheeses and salads as fresh as possible for as long as possible.

The Food

Sharing platters

For easy crowd pleasing sharers, create a smorgasbord of colourful, tasty charcuterie and cheeses. Head to your local butcher or deli to get some freshly cut meats that are unique in flavour and give your guests a little taste of everything. If you’re unsure of what to choose, ask your butcher as they will tell you which of their cuts go well together. We recommend at least three or more selections of a mixture of bresaola, beef tenderloin which has been air dried. Salted and spiced, dark red in colour and rich in flavour. An Italian prosciutto, and either a jamón Serrano or jamón Ibérico Spanish, dry-cured ham. Alternatively, Canon and Cannon provide a pre-selected platter of the very best British artisanal cured meats. 

Cannon Cannon

(Picture courtesy of Cannon and Cannon)

Add a little pâté or terrine to your board, The Fine Food Specialists offer an tasty range and some fresh grapes and sliced apple pieces to bring some additional texture and compliment the flavours. Make sure to cut your pâté into small bitesized piece to make it easy to eat.

For the cheese selection expert cheese mongers Pong recommend choosing cheeses that cope well in warmer temperatures such as Camemberts and Brie as they will “ooze perfectly by the time you’ve found your resting spot”. Two other French cheeses Pong recommend as they are hugely picnic-friendly are the Normandy-made: Livarot and Pont l'Eveque.

“You HAVE to have a cheddar at a picnic in the UK." Say experts Pong. "A good quality Cheddar is the perfect mixing cheese in that it works brilliantly with so many different flavours and a variety of drinks; the picnic format is suited perfectly to a good artisan cheddar such as a Westcombe or a Montgomery. Finally a good goat's cheese is ideal for a picnic since it will combine well with fruits and other nibbles.”

Don’t forget the carbs! Choose some soft doughy homemade breads from your local bakery and a selection of savoury biscuits from Hillside Foods which will complement the savory and salty notes of your meats and cheese - and don't forget the butter or spread! Their fruity chutneys are also perfect to add some extra flavor and crunch, with combinations like red onion and thyme, spiced orchard fruit and pear apple and herb there’s something for every pallet.

Select some olive oils and balsamic vinegar to dip and serve everything already sliced on one large sharing board that everyone can tuck into. Pong Cheese And Hillside Foods Edited 1

(Pictures courtesy of Pong and Hillside Foods)

The Main Dish 

Tear and Share

If you want something a little more substantial to fill up your guests, The Little Picnic Company recomend preparing a ham or a chicken at home, let it cool and slice it yourself. It will be guaranteed to taste (and look) better. We LOVE this ham in Coca Cola recipe, care of the Domestic Goodness herself Nigella.

A big, bright and colourful salad with a variety of ingredients from fruit, grains and a seasonal dressing will also provide a visual spectacle and a fresh and tasty acccompliment.

Anna Barnett’s Burrata, Cavelo Nero & Beef Tomato Salad is a perfect seasonal summer salad made with fresh, chunky beef tomatoes, burrata and lashings of vinegar to flavour. If you want something a little different, try Anna’s Venus rice salad with green harissa and fresh mint. This vibrant dish is a bowl of summer and full of goodness and full of seasonal flavours. 

Jamie Oliver also has an imaginative and mouth-watering array of picnic perfect recipes  and we love his halloumi with grilled vegetables, the simple houmous and aubergine dips

And of course Yotam Ottolenghi is the master of delicious and different salads, glorious for al fresco forays. Try this buckwheat and rice salad with dried cherries and hazelnuts, divine! 

Dress dishes with fresh herbs, arrange nibbles nicely and it will make all the difference. 

Anna Barnett Venus Rice Salad And Ottolenghis Buckwheat Salad Edited 1(Black Venus Rice Salad Picture Courtsey of Anna Barnett Cooks and Buckweheat and Rice Salad, picture coutsey of Ottolenghi.co.uk)

Something Sweet

Dessert is essential at a picnic. Strawberries and cream are a British classic and simple to do sitting on a blanket. Get some fresh strawberries from your local greengrocers and some double cream or clotted cream and natural yoghurt depending on your preference. Make sure you cool the cream in advance and keep it in a cool box until you’re ready to serve. Whisk together the cream and yoghurt with a little vanilla extract, add some crushed strawberries and some crushed meringue from the incredible meringue girls - they have an Eton Mess kit!! and a little strawberry coulis and you have you’re very own Eton mess in the park. To keep it from getting messy, layer up your ingredients in mason jars and eat straight out of it with a spoon.

If you want something pre-made, try these scrumptious Cakes in a Jar for a fun alterantive. Choose from Victoria sponge and vanilla dream to red velvet, a perfect faff free addition. 

For some little extras to nibble throughout the day, cut up some fresh watermelon and place it on a stick ready to eat with some small punnets of berries to pick at.  You can also add a touch of nostalgia by plating up some retro treats like party rings, ice buns and jam tarts.

Cakeinajar And Watermelon Edited 1

The Drinks

The best thing about picnics when it comes to summer drinks is that most wines, beers and fruity ciders pair perfectly with charcutarie boards and simple salads.


Ideally, everyone should bring a bottle of what they’d like to drink, but if you're providing the full ingredients Tom Fowler Sommelier of wine and whisky merchants John Gordons suggests selecting some simple, refreshing choices that are the perfect accompaniment to light summer dishes.  

“When it comes to wine you can be as adventurous as you want so we have a selection of all different flavours and styles." said Tom. “The Roussanne Vermentino, Chateau la Negly, La Brise Marine are both dry white wines that create a lovely exotic mango, creamy rounded flavours, still dry but not as sharp and with a little more adventurous taste to it so it goes well with a summer picnic menu.

“You could also go for a safe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which is very popular at the moment, and this one particularly has intense flavours of grapefruit and melon and hints of lychees, passion fruits for more of a citrus flavor.” Our third choice is the Albariño, “One of Spain’s favorite white wines this is really fresh, crisp and minerally too, with a little bit more body than your usual Pinot Grigio” adds Tom. 

If you prefer a red, Tom suggests the Fleurie Cuvee, from the Beaujolais region, “This is a fantastic red, and has really nice red fruit and berry flavours of strawberries and raspberries throughout, and it is very nice chilled as well.“

For a rosé, of for the Tavel, Domaine de la Mordoree, “This is one of my favourites," says Tom. “It’s packed full of flavour with a long lasting aniseed and fruity finish perfect for cold meat and salad dishes on a hot summers afternoon and when chilled it is very refreshing.”

John Gordons Picnic Wine Selection Edited 1

Beer & Cider

Beer somellier Heather Naismith, of online craft beer club Beer 52 says that when it comes to beer to pair with your picnic, "Like in wine, generally, what grows together goes together." Heather says, "Think a farmhouse saison with a brie and you won't be far away. The creaminess is counteracted by the funk and carbonation of the saison. The stronger the cheese, the more funky the beer can be. Fantome Saison is a great choice. 

"Fresh cheeses like goat’s cheese or a Scottish crowdie go really well with either a Wit beer or a Wheat beer. The lemony citrus flavours match like for like with the acidity in fresh cheese and it’s a great partnership."

For the cheddar, Heather says, "A pale ale and a cheddar would hits the sweet spot. Try a Portobello Pale Ale with a lighter cheddar and the North Brew Co Transmission for a bigger, bolder mature cheddar."

If you want something a little lighter and fruitier Daylsford Festival Cider is a perfect summer addition. Made purely from unsprayed Autumn apples from the Evenlode valley orchards and a little sugar, it’s perfect for celebrating. 

Beer And Cider 

Something Fruity

There’s nothing more quintessentially British to finish off your picnic than a glass of cold Pimms. Make sure you use plenty as the base, at least one part Pimm's to three parts lemonade. Keep garnishes simple so that they complement and don’t overwhelm the flavours. Try just strawberries, mint, cucumber and orange sparingly. Your lemonade should be the best to ensure the flavour is balanced and not too sweet add lots of ice!


On summer days it’s important to keep hydrated. Try adding fresh fruit and herbs to water – sliced cucumber and mint is simple and delicious and looks beautiful too. Keep them fresh using the Citrus zinger. 

Freeze your water overnight or make some fruit or mint infused ice cubes and store in a thermos flash, that way, it will melt throughout the day but stay cold.

Shutterstock 454871020

Packing your Hamper

Expert picnic pro's The Little Picnic Company say the way you pack your hamper is almost as important as the food: "You need to pack your food so that the cold food arives cold and the hot items arrive hot. If possible, pack your basket in the order you will need the items. Your blanket needs to be used first, so place it at the top. Rubbish bags at the bottom, and try and arrnage your food in the order of consumption" says Carter Williamson. "Desserts near th ebottom, mains and salads in the middle, nibbles ner the top. Place wipes at the top for nice clean hands to start t he picnic."


Presentation counts

What sets your picnic apart from the average is how it is laid out. With a little extra effort you can make your picnic the invite of the weekend, but you don’t have to go overboard, it’s just about some simple touches.

Find the perfect Spot

Firstly, make sure you choose a great picnic spot. Pick a place that has both sun and shade if you can, or by water and try to position yourself away from roads and paths, so that you have a good amount of privacy and can enjoy some space.

Make a little camp

Take lots of rugs and cushions so that it is as comfortable as possible. Rouge’s pure wool picnic blankets are gorgeously colorful and come with fringe detailing and a waterproof backing to ensure everyone stays dry and there are no soggy bottoms, as Mary Berry would say. 

Scatter some of these soft oilcloth cushions from Tonder and Tonder to cosy-up in, made for the great outdoors they are wipe clean and come in pale blue or taupe, cotton lavender or stone which are totally protected from the elements. 

Remember to take a couple of extra rugs in case it gets chilly as the day goes on.

We love the way this picnic was styled by Foxes Events, with just two colours, some great helium balloons and lots of cushions it's the perfect setting, and this vintage look from Heartthehandmade.co.uk is perfectly relaxing, perfect for a sport under a tree. 

Picnic Style

(Picture Left to right from Foxes Events Summer Party Inspiration PintrestHeart The Handmade Inspiration Pintrest, Cost Plus)

Lay it out

Lay out your feast in the middle of your rug, or for larger gatherings set up one or two small fold-up tables to create a buffet-style spread which will keep it all separate and reduce the chance of spillage.  If you want to create more a rustic look, stack some old crates or for some height these Wooden serving platters from Lakeland are perfect for breads, dipping sauces, charcuterie and everything else. 

Image From Leah Bergman Freutcake 2 (Picture from Leah Bergman Freutcake)

Create Some Style

Colorful hanging décor

If you have a tree in the vicinity hang some décor from its branches to add a little colour and fun. Paper lanterns and honeycomb balls are perfect decorations that will hang with a simple string or thread. We love the range from Pipii, offering a rainbow of colours.  

Create some shade

If you want to create some shade, a shade sail which can be hung from a tree can create a very stylish look and Primrose offer a variety in all the colours of the rainbow to suit your style.

Add some light

The best picnics last long into the evening so add some light by wrapping some solar powered festoon lights around your lantern threads interwoven with some multicolored led lanterns to create a magical look, these ones from Lights4fun add just enough colour. 

Create Some Style

(Pictures courtesy of Pipii, Sail Pinterest and lantern lights Lights4fun)

Stylish tableware

Food should be presented as beautifully as it would be at home. Forget cling film and tin foil…it’s fine to use plastic storage containers to transport your food but if you can invest in some outdoor tableware it will complete your spread. Enamel or plastic versions are unbreakable and reusable every year and are a pleasure to use. We love Lakeland’s elegant fiesta blue goblet collection which can be paired with Liberty’s Theodora Liberty Print Melamine plates. 

Don’t disregard paper plates though, if you want something quick and easy, they’ve had a makeover and now come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes to compliment any theme. Choose a design and colour to compliment your throws and cushions from the vast range available from the Pretty Little Party Shop. 

Swap kitchen roll for pretty napkins and colorful tea towels like these cute origami napkins from Lollipop Designs. 


Cover up

Get some food coverings to keep the bugs at bay and your food shaded, we like these silicon lids from Charles Viancin are fantastic and colourfull for dishes, bowls and drinks. 

Fun & Games

Some people’s ideal picnic involves little activity; chatting, eating, relaxing and enjoying the company and atmosphere, having said that – a game of rounder’s or volleyball are always a winner and will get kids and grown-ups running around in the sunshine and Garden Street have every game you could possibly need to have some fun!

Feeling nostalgic, set up some vintage games like Quoits a game of skill and hand-eye coordination, traditional croquet, garden skittles or why not get some Hessian sacks from Hen and Hammock and put on your very own park sack race.

As always, the key to a great picnic is to relax and enjoy it. If it doesn’t all go according to plan then don’t panic - if it rains then find the nearest tree, or throw up some umbrellas (you can hire some from our friends at Brolly Buckets!). Celebrate the unpredictability of the great outdoors, and have a wonderful time whatever the weather.

For more ideas to make your al fresco feast look and feel fantastic. Take a look at Toast’s Top Picks on the Edit this Friday for this years most stylish picnic accessories.

For Garden Waste Made From Hessian


Throw a couple of empty food storage boxes or re-sealable plastic bags in your picnic hamper – perfect for bringing home any leftovers. Also don’t forget the essentials… bin bags, sun cream, hand sanitizer and insect repellent are all super useful bits of picnic kit.


Posted in Inspire Me

by Sophie Farrah
on on 29 July 2016


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