Creating an Al Fresco Dining Area

This summer my plan was to use the barbecue more than the oven and while the jury's still out on whether I did or not, it also meant that we planned (and mostly managed) to eat outside too. I mean after giving these chairs a revamp, I had to use them didn't I?

Eating outdoors is one of life’s little pleasures, so whether your space is large or small, your focus should be on making the most of it. Don’t rule out outdoor dining if you only have a small space rather than an extensive garden; make the space work for you and you’ll be grateful of the extra ‘room’.

The dining area

Tables and chairs work better on patio or decking, which is great news if you do have a paved area only. Rattan furniture wears well and as such remain many people’s go-to choice for outdoor furniture. Long tables and matching benches made from reclaimed wood are becoming more popular as people look to make garden parties less formal. If you’re worried how your garden furniture will stack up against the weather be sure to treat any wood and cover with a protector when not in use.  If you’re space poor you could choose a table that folds up against a wall, many of these come with storage space for chairs underneath too.

If you have room, having an outdoor ‘bar’ can be a nice touch. This could be as simple as a table laid out with ready-filled plastic wine glasses or colourful jugs of cocktails. If you’re more of a wine drinker, think about buying a few wine cooler stands so that you don’t have to keep popping back in doors to the fridge. Purchasing from an industry specialist like Lockhart Catering or Nisbets is a good way to find these a little cheaper than you would on the high street, particularly if you’re ordering a few.

If you are working with a small area, easy access indoors with bi-fold doors can help open the space up and give you extra room. Creativedoors design bi-fold doors with wooden finishes that blend in better with your garden compared to other plastic styles. 

And remember it's not always warm (as if you need reminding after the last week) so we won’t always have the weather to complement the Spanish villa vibe you might be aiming for. Think about adding a good-sized umbrella to provide cover for your table area and if you have space, a gazebo gives you a reason not to go indoors if it rains a little.

The cookery kits

You might be yearning to build your own pizza oven or smoker and for those with the room (and time) there are kits out there to help you construct what amounts to your own outdoor restaurant. Thankfully, there are also a lot of temporary options too, so if you’re space and time poor, smoking kits that sit on top of the barbecue or smoking guns are great gourmet gadgets. Pizza stones used on top of the barbecue will help you tap into that fresh-baked taste too and for a fraction of the cost and effort. This video from Weber shows how their pizza stone, which retails for around £50, can be used on even small barbecues.
If you’d prefer not to be away from your visitors tending the barbecue, you might want to explore the idea of using barbecue tables like this one from Jamie Oliver which allows guests to grill their own food. Fondue kits are another great social sharing food option that are perfect for outdoor occasions, and the host!

Setting the scene

Making your outdoor space look party ready in the evening can be as simple as hanging strings of solar fairy lights to frame your garden or yard, though citronella candles will help you keep insects at bay. For daytime dining think about using the natural features of the space – flowers are very decorative after all. If you really don’t have time to garden, check out these pre-planted hanging baskets from Garden Wants. Consider comfort beyond the outdoor table and think about adding a fire pit or Chimenea for guests to gather around in the evening when things get cooler, and don't forget to keep blankets to hand too.

So, as the barbecue season draws to an end - or has it? - what were your successes? For me, it was delegating the cooking to MOH and that cauliflower cooked in foil with butter, seasoning and some Parmesan. Delicious!


This is a collaborative post.