Posh Picnics with the Little Picnic Company

Gourmet food without the fuss – how to master culinary informality

Carter Williamson knows how to picnic. The former chef has been perfecting the art of al fresco eating for almost a decade. Three years ago, he launched the Little Picnic Company, a separate arm to his popular Hertfordshire-based catering business, Hamiltons – focusing solely on this great British pastime.

“Dining has been too formal for too long,” says Williamson. “Things like weddings can be expensive and the food tends to lack variety. A picnic, on the other hand, has lots of different elements and it makes a great talking point for guests who don’t know each other well – put a wicker basket filled with sharing food in the middle of a table and everyone gets involved and helps themselves. It’s breaking bread together in every sense of the word.”

He could be onto something. From tapas to street food and the explosion of barbecue joints and burrito bars, casual dining has never been more popular. But there’s a romance about picnicking that clearly can’t be rivalled – Williamson’s services are constantly in demand.

Cheese Picnic And Lux Meat

The official caterer for the Battle Proms concerts, the Little Picnic Company also provides gourmet feasts for weddings, private parties, boating trips on the river – “We can either set up a picnic at an agreed location or drop it off at a specific lock along the way” – and corporate events.  Williamson’s team can even facilitate the perfect proposal: “The last one was in London’s Richmond Park about a month ago. We put out blankets and chairs, and popped a bottle of champagne in the basket. When the client turned up with his fiancee, everything was ready to go.”

Do our would-be cupids stick around for the question to be popped? “If customers want us to pour the drinks then absolutely, we can provide a fully catered service. At larger events, we’ll often do linen, glassware, canapes, a champagne reception – the lot. But most people prefer to look after themselves because they want a more relaxed experience. So we might place bales of hay beside tables and guests will do their own thing.”

Don’t be fooled by the implied informality – the approach may seem breezy, but each menu is thoughtfully considered and designed with gastronomy in mind. Think chargrilled chicken in an oregano crumble, orzo with Persian feta, mint, fresh peans and broad beans, and rich chocolate brownies alongside a tangy berry compote. But it’s not just about taste – provenance is crucial for Williamson.

“We try to use organic and locally sourced ingredients where possible. And sustainability is also important to us. Our paper packaging is recyclable and our blankets are re-milled and rewoven.” 

A slap-up feed with added virtuousness – we’re sold.

British Larder And Gourmet Picnic

Afternoon Tea And Kids Picnic

The Little Picnic Company has nine menus to choose from, plus vegetarian options. A standard picnic for two costs from £59. Additional extras include wine, prosecco, champagne, wicker baskets, chairs, linens, service, etc. Bespoke picnics are available on request.

Carter’s top tips for creating the perfect picnic 

Things to consider

  • Will the food travel and keep well?
  • Make sure your picnic is easy to share and doesn’t need much preparation when you arrive on site
  • Take time to put together tasty food – don’t throw just anything into a bag. A homemade lemonade or a cold bottle of wine will add to the sense of occasion
  • If you’ve children with you, it’s nice to make them feel involved. Let them help with the preparations or they could even put together their own sandwich

Food to include

  • An artisan loaf of bread. Don’t forget the butter!
  • Nibbles such as hummus, breadsticks, olives and crisps
  • Pork pies
  • Something more substantial like a pre-roasted chicken or some poached or smoked salmon
  • Green and pasta salads, and homemade coleslaw
  • Cous cous, tabbouleh or potato salad
  • A variety of cheeses and crackers
  • Brownies, fruit or a pie for dessert

What to pack

  • Cups, glasses, plates and cutlery
  • Napkins and a tablecloth
  • A pack of wipes for the kids
  • A few sharp knives, tongs for serving, a bottle opener or corkscrew and a chopping board
  • Folding chairs
  • A blanket or rug (ideally with a waterproof backing)
  • Bags for rubbish
  • A wicker basket
  • A lightweight cooler bag with ice bricks for drinks, cheese and salads

Packing the hamper

If possible, pack your basket in the order you’ll need the items. Your blanket will be used first, so place this at the top and rubbish bags at the bottom. Try to arrange food according to consumption – desserts further down, sandwiches and salads near the middle and nibbles at the top.


Posted in Inspire Me

by Alix O'Neill
on on 26 August 2016


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