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Let's go outside: Six ways to dine al fresco

Has this scorching sunshine got you feeling rather continental? Long hot evenings are begging for BBQ’s and al fresco dining, so while the sun is shining why not push aside the T.V dinner in favour of grazing in the great outdoors. Here are a few open air dining experiences which go beyond barbequed bean burgers.

Have you ever noticed how much better food tastes when you’re on holiday? That’s because you’re probably focusing more on your food. Studies have shown that when we’re in a more laid-back state we’re more likely to be mindful of the food we’re consuming. This helps us to concentrate more on flavours and look beyond distractions to the colours and textures on our plates.

Aside from being able to catch some rays while tucking into some good grub, we naturally relax more when eating outside. Not only does this mean we tend to savour and appreciate our meals more, but it can even improve our immune systems by lowering the stress hormone cortisol. We also react physically to being outside, our blood pressure lowers and muscle tension reduces, helping us to feel less stressed or anxious.

Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that food often tastes better when we’re enjoying it in the arms of Mother Nature, but it often gets a bad rep. Eating outdoors doesn’t have to mean beans cooked on a camping stove or sausages in soggy buns, here are some options to try this summer that are good for both our brains and bellies.

Beautiful Allotment, London

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Find the countryside in the centre of the city

What to expect

During the Summer months, the beautiful Victorian gardens of the Geffrye Museum in London are transformed into a rustic allotment come outdoor restaurant and bar. Sit amongst the vegetable patches in a variety of bookable spaces, from potting sheds to treehouses and enjoy fresh, locally sourced food in a stunning and quirky setting. Menus change daily, with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options to choose from, while the organic backdrop helps make green fingered guests feel at home. While your food is being cooked on the hot coals of a raised BBQ, enjoy a cocktail from the wheelbarrow of a wandering garden-tender, or simply drink in this lush oasis in the middle of London. You can book your space here.

The Hidden Hut, Cornwall

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Cornish coves and sunset dinners

What to expect

Tucked into a secluded location and overlooking a beautiful bay, The Hidden Hut lives up to its name and is a short walk along the coast path from Portscatho town. This modest cabin serves up crowd pleasing belly-timber at a reasonable price. Everything is made fresh on the day and is locally sourced, meaning the menu changes with the seasons, while communal benches offer a chance to meet with foodies from around the world. As well as lunches, The Hidden Hut holds feast nights where you can enjoy a banquet of tasty food and a cosy fire, whatever the weather. Just book in advance, bring your own cutlery and drinks, and wrap up warm so you can drink in the stunning view in comfort. After dinner, hot water bottles and blankets are handed out so you can watch the sunset over the water. What could be more dreamy?

Picnics that pack a punch

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Laid back lunching and family fun

What to expect

Picnics needn’t mean traditional gingham blankets and wicker baskets, they can be whatever you want them to be. Why not set a theme for your picnic to make it a little more interesting? Go for an ‘all around the world’ theme and invite guests to bring along a dish from their favourite cuisine, or hold a Mexican fiesta complete with fill-your-own tacos, freshly made guac and margaritas. Think outside the box when choosing your spot - rooftops, sculpture gardens or open air theatres will make your picnic all the more interesting!

Riverford Field Kitchen, Devon

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From seed to supper - seasonality at its best

What to expect

When they’re not out in the field growing organic vegetables, Riverford are showcasing authentically grown ingredients at the Field Kitchen. Surrounded by the Devon countryside, ingredients are harvested just metres from your plate and chefs cook up a feast of six-eight dishes from the freshest produce. Unlike many other restaurants, the Field Kitchen has just one sitting, where everyone is served at the same time and the starter/main rule is derailed in a favour of a steady flow of generous portions ensuring nobody leaves hungry. At the end of your meal you’ll be invited to come up to the kitchen and choose a tempting dessert to end your feast with. Explore the gardens, or sit and gaze at the view from the sun terrace, but make sure you book in advance as these guys are popular!

The Treehouse, Northumberland

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Tea in a tree!

What to expect

This adorable wooden treehouse restaurant looks like it stepped straight out of a fairytale. Nestled in the heart of Northumberland in The Alnwick Garden, The Treehouse restaurant is complete with wobbly rope bridges, wooden walkways and a log fire to keep you cosy. An adventurous way to relive your childhood dreams while eating dinner in the tree canopy - spend the day wandering around the colourful gardens before indulging in an evening of enchanting food and drink. Book in to enjoy food from a locally sourced menu with a good range of veggie options, or enjoy a cocktail whilst listening to some live music.

At home

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Impress your friends with a plant-based BBQ

What to expect

You don’t need to be a herbivore to enjoy this glorious cookbook - swap sausages for tandoori tofu skewers or wow your pals with eggplant hot dogs and cauliflower cutlets. These are just a few of the deliciously noteworthy recipes which feature in the Vegan BBQ. Written by the self proclaimed “food-nerds” Nadine Horn and Jörg Mayer, this book will ensure your BBQ stands out from the rest.

So while the weather is warm, why not swap the crustless cucumber sandwiches and picnic fodder for something a little more luxurious? If you’re still looking for unconventional ways to dine, you’ll find some splendid supper clubs from across the country here.

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