With summertime almost upon us, it’s time to turn our attention to more outdoor occasions, including al fresco dining – my favourite!
If ever there was an occasion which sung of summertime, al fresco everything is it!
I am so thrilled to be partnering with Marks & Spencer today on their jaw-dropping al fresco dining range. Warning – you’ll want to peruse everything, so settle in with a cup of something delicious and have a nose.
I absolutely adore enjoying time with friends outdoors. Whether it be a picnic at the beach, a glass of wine on a terrace or a dinner party al fresco – there is something about outdoor entertaining which speaks to my Mediterranean side and just makes my heart happy.
In today’s post I’m sharing three of my crucial ingredients for a perfect al fresco dinner party. These tips are designed to help you to shape your own outdoor soirée.
I hope you’ll enjoy delving into today’s post, and that it’ll give you the little nudge needed to plan your own outdoor get-together with friends.
3 Ingredients For The Perfect Al Fresco Dinner Party
1 – Beautiful Table Decor
Aside from the company, food, drink (OK, yes I love it all) the decor for any event is my favourite part.
Or at least one of them ????!
I like to plan my table decor ahead of time. I research my table decor (hello Pinterest and Instagram saves!) and pull something together which speaks of both the occasion and the people present.
In every decor element of our home, I like things to be part polished/part undone and always feel like it’s a reflection of Oli and I and our tastes.
Colour, texture and prints make my heart sing, but I like to anchor it all with neutral bases. That way everything still feels pulled together, even when there’s an eclectic mix of decor goodness going on.
“Colour, texture and prints make my heart sing,
but I like to anchor it all with neutral bases.”
Each of the pieces I selected from Marks & Spencer made my heart skip a little beat. I truly adore (like fan girl style) every single piece.
These nautical-inspired melamine plates, side plates and bowls could not be prettier! There are four designs per set and (true story!) I was sneaking peeks at them on and off even before we shot this piece. I am head over heels for them! Being melamine you can take them anywhere, they’re nicer than 99% of the plates I own at home yet I can take them outdoors without any fear of breaking. Dreamy.
The tumblers too look so luxe and they’re plastic – can you believe it?! They’re designed to look like cut glass, and when I showed my friends them they genuinely couldn’t get over how luxurious and ‘real’ they look.
As for that tea light holder, isn’t it the most beautiful centre piece? The tea light holder, and the embroidered runner, for me anchored the whole table, and I can’t wait to actually light the candles and put it into practice enjoying a long lazy dinner with friends out here soon.
Fresh flowers add life and colour to the table. I never tire of running my flowers errands! To round everything off, I added a few shells for our beachy al fresco experience.
Top tip! If you are dining outdoors and you’ll likely be staying out till the evening, be sure to have some blankets or throws nearby which your guests can easily reach for to cosy up. I like to keep mine in a wicker basket or wooden box near the table.
2 – Create a Menu
Before living with Oli I never had a menu for guests! Pesto pasta was my forté so really no surprises as to what my guests would be eating haha!
Oli is an amazing cook and it’s been one of my favourite things about living together that (not only do I get to sample all of his amazing dishes – lucky me!) but I also get to see how he plans food specifically for dinner parties and entertaining.
A menu sounds like more work than it is, and I don’t mean that you have to print anything out(!), but it helps to have a clear idea of exactly what everyone will be eating and which flavours go together.
For starters I like to serve a fresh soup (Oli’s courgette, parmesan and basil is my favourite!), or a salad.
Mains I love to serve sharing-style. I’ll pop a variety of dishes on to the table and everyone can pick and choose what they like. Big salads, pastas, meat, fish . . . if you’re dining with us (especially al fresco) we will go full Mediterranean on you!
And for dessert, I love a chocolate mousse with sea salt. I haven’t yet learnt to perfect it . . . but I’m working on it!
Whatever you choose to whip up for friends, having a menu plan makes things so much easier.
3 – Serve an Aperitivo
Again with the Italian heritage!
One of my favourite things about travelling to Italy or Spain is the aperitivo before dinner.
An aperitivo is a drink served before dinner with the intention of stimulating your appetite.
This could be a gin and tonic, a mojito (or whatever you fancy really!) but for me my very favourite is an Aperol or Campari spritz.
An aperitivo is the perfect al fresco dining companion and would be sure to get your guests in the mood for your outdoor fiesta.
What’s Your Take?
How do you like to enjoy your time outdoors with friends? Will you be hosting an al fresco party? If you don’t have an outdoor space you can easily put together a gorgeous picnic too!
Love, Monica x
Thank you to Marks & Spencer for sponsoring this post.