5 elegant al fresco dining ideas

Enjoy a relaxed evening of wine and cheese


If you'd like to enjoy a sophisticated supper outdoors but don't fancy cooking, I highly recommend having a wine and cheese evening out in your garden. There's something magical about sampling a delicious cheese board and washing it down with a perfectly matched red or white, so much so that you could spend the whole night comparing tasting notes as the sun sets.
While you may initially think that finding the perfect wine and cheese combinations takes a whole lot of expertise to get right, you might be surprised at how easy it is. For starters, there are plenty of fine cheeses available to buy online, such as the ones here at Chuckling Cheese, and you can easily find information on which wine will match. This guide from Decanter is a fantastic place to start.
 

Capture that holiday feeling with a destination-inspired menu


One of the first things you'll likely picture when thinking "al fresco" are the bustling outdoor cafés and restaurants on the continent that have made this style of dining famous. So, what better way to enjoy your food than by creating a destination-inspired menu that captures some of that culture? It's a nice way to establish that holiday feeling, which may be fitting if you're not traveling this year.
For example, if one of your favourite places in the world is Florence or Milan, design a menu that has its roots in that delicious northern Italian style of cooking. Or, if you prefer to lounge in the sun on a Mediterranean island like Santorini, prepare Greek food that includes fava, the regional delicacy. You only need to think back to your favourite trips away to unlock a whole world of inspiration.

 

Have a spot of afternoon tea in the sun

For an al fresco dining idea originating a little closer to home, why not schedule a spot of afternoon tea while the sun is shining? This is the perfect activity for taking a break from a busy day or catching up with a friend or relative that you haven't seen in a while, and your outdoor dining area is the ideal location for a sophisticated cake and tea combination.
If you're going to host a memorable afternoon tea session, you'll need to ensure everything feels as luxurious as it would in a tearoom or country club. So, if you don't have any quality tableware, it's a great excuse to buy a lovely tea set and some cake dishes — I highly recommend investing in handmade ceramics as they'll last for years and are sure to attract compliments when your table is all set up. You'll also have the perfect excuse for making afternoon tea a regular event in your home.
 

Set up your garden for afterhours al fresco


Want to really capture the continental al fresco feeling? Then you'll have to dine and drink later than you usually would. In many European countries, they tend to have their dinner at a later time than we do in the UK – sometimes as late as 10 or 11pm! So, if you want to follow suit, you'll need to make sure that your garden is set up for an afterhours meal.
The main thing to focus on is making sure that your space is lit up in a way that enhances the mood. Rather than just putting up a spotlight, I recommend investigating other types of lighting that cast a softer glow. Placing some candles on and around your table will create gentle illumination, while you can hang festoon lights above your dining area or work fairy lights into walls and fences to illuminate the borders of your garden. Finally, be sure to have some nice blankets on hand, just in case the mercury drops while you're still enjoying your time outdoors.
Dining al fresco is a great way to enjoy the summer weather, but you'll need to get creative to make the most of the experience. Hopefully, these tips have inspired you!