As we inch ever closer to the day that we’re free from coronavirus restrictions, the prospect of resuming normal life becomes more and more real.
From leisurely lunch picnics in our local parks with pals, to cooking up a BBQ feast in the back garden, we’re mentally penciling in myriad ways to celebrate the end of a particularly trying era.
While paper plates and napkins may have served your needs perfectly well in the past, the last 12 months have shown us that making a ceremony over small things, even lunch, can help raise spirits. And it’s not just an old wive’s tale that we eat with our eyes first; proper presentation can help food taste even better.
Freedom to move
Jonny Brierley, CEO of Moda Furnishings, advises: "Give your dining experience a sense of grandeur, upsize your table by two place settings. For example, if you have an eight-seater table, seat six people around it to give your table a more generous feel. Each guest will have more room for their glassware and crockery, and won’t be knocking elbows with their tablemates”.
Meanwhile Alison Howell, design development manager at Burleigh, believes in a mix and match approach for effortless al fresco tablescaping: “Beautiful weather encourages a more relaxed dining atmosphere. Embrace that with simple glassware, plain coarse linen napkins and let your tableware do the work- mix and match patterns in the same hue to amplify the impact. It may seem counterintuitive, but simple summer dishes look great on a dark, lush pattern. It even makes the chucked-together-in-three-minutes-salad feel like an event.”
It's all about the details, says Alice Wilkes, founder of ARW a creative design agency specialising in luxury events: "We're so lucky to have some wonderful forgeable flowers and foliage available on our doorstep. When tablescaping outdoors, add handpicked white blossom with daffodils for a seasonal arrangement from your country walk. A statement tablecloth as a way to bring colour to your garden and a sense of fun. We have waited so long to dine together and now is the time to enjoy! And why not make illustrated place settings and menus as a lovely addition to the table. Colourful borders or hand drawn details add charm to your tabletop and handwriting provides a personalised touch!"
With this in mind, we’ve rounded up fun and fancy tableware for your spread, whether it’s a lunch-for-one on the patio or a celebratory reunion with friends on a sunny patch of grass.
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Plates & Serving Platters
Yvonne Ellen Safari Picnic Side Plates
Feel closer than ever to nature with Yvonne Ellen’s side plates, which come in a medley of safari-inspired prints. Ideal for giving your long-awaited celebrations a stylish edge, the set of four is made from shatter-proof melamine and is part of a bigger range that includes dinner plates and picnic bowls. Dishwasher and microwave safe.
Wheat Straw 12 Piece Dinner Set
For those looking for something sturdier than a paper plate, check out this 12 piece dinner set made from wheat straw, a tough, hard wearing melamine alternative. It’s microwavable and dishwasher-safe and light enough for children to handle.
Simply Eco - Pale Pink Large Scalloped Party Plates
If you’re planning a small party or fancy brunch, your guests will delight in eating off these pretty pastel pink scalloped plates from Party Pieces, the company owned by Prince William’s mother-in-law, Carole Middleton.
Delivered as a pack of eight, they’re made from wood fibre, bamboo and sugarcane, so are easily recyclable and measure 24cm across. There are smaller versions available in cream and pink as well as matching scalloped paper napkins.
BIOZOYG Organic Bamboo Plate Set
Whether you’re planning a camping trip or want to refresh your BBQ serving style, these sustainable plates are the perfect way to finesse your al-fresco dining presentation. The dishwasher-safe plates are made from bamboo fibres and bring a sense of playfulness to your event with fashionable jungle creature motifs. We’re living for the chic shady lion.
Vera Poppies Bamboo Melamine Serving Platter
Give those tin foil trays a rest and up the ante with a pretty serving platter from Anthropologie. Crafted from bamboo fibre and melamine, this poppy-strewn serving platter is lightweight, easy-to-clean, and shatter-resistant - an essential for barbecues and picnics.
Wilko Bamboo Serving Tray
Serve small plates and drinks in style for much less than you’d expect at Wilko. This minimalist black tray is fashioned from bamboo and incorporates two handles on either side for easier carrying. We’ve mentally checked it for our hot sauce collection, each one a BBQ enhancer.
Nordic Nest Rice melamine plate
Pretty yet practical, we can think of endless uses for this melamine 22 x 30cm serving platter from Nordic Nest. Use now to impress your guests and come autumn bring it indoors as a setting for a vase of flowers.
Premier Housewares Assorted Storage Bowls Melamine with Clear Lids
Fed up of swatting insects and falling leaves from your potato salad? Serve them in these melamine bowls which come with lids to keep things fresh. This trio comes in a chic plum, cream and grey palette, and will look the part on your carefully considered tablescape.
Dishwasher safe, Capacity 600, 1600 and 2300ml respectively.
Olive Wood & Bone Batik Salad Servers
Why did the salad blush? Because it wasn’t dressed. While we may forever delight in telling corny dad jokes, no one will be embarrassed when you plate up obligatory greens with these salad servers. Made from sustainable wild olive wood and bone handles, they’re hand carved to Fairtrade standards in Kenya.
Napkins & Cutlery
Weaver Green Toulouse Blue Stripe Napkins
They may look and feel like real linen but this four pack of napkins are made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. A great eco alternative to cotton and cloth, they’re machine washable and stain-resistant too.
Stone Flower Dot Cotton Napkin
Handmade in India with 100 per cent cotton, these stunning hand blocked napkins come in 14 lovely designs and colours and are the quickest way to add some flair to your outdoor dining adventures.
Camping Cutlery Set,4 Sets Portable Cutlery
Covid aside, endless fingers grappling for the best olive in the bowl is incredibly uncouth. Feel more refined with a cutlery set in pretty pastel hues - you can get four sets complete with containers for less than £10. Dishwasher safe and reusable, it’s a practical buy for anyone planning to eat the lion’s share of their meals under open skies this summer.
Elements Outdoor Picnic Plate and Cutlery Case Set
For easy outdoor dining at a moment’s notice, keep this slim plate and cutlery set on standby. There’s enough plates and cutlery for four and packing flat into 25cm x 25cm x 6cmm it’s an easy addition to sling into your bag or picnic basket.
Glasses, Tumblers & Jugs
Duralex Prisme Prisme Tumbler Set of 4 in Marine
Made from tempered glass which can withstand thermal shocks of 150 degrees and is two-and-a-half times more resistant than normal glass, keep this set of glasses on hand for BBQ guests once we’ve been given the all-clear.
Dibor Set Of Four Vintage Embossed Coloured Wine Glasses
If you’re going for an eclectic look, these footed wine-glasses will give your garden party a look of whimsical elegance. Choose from a selection of colours and designs in hand-pressed patterns that are dishwasher safe to boot.
M&S Set of 4 Rainbow Picnic Champagne Flutes
Toast good weather and great friends with this set of four champagne flutes, ideal for park picnics made in durable, long-lasting plastic. The rainbow hue offers an extra special touch to your glass of fizz.
Also in the collection:
Orange Ceramic Jug
Weekend brunches just got a whole lot sweeter with this fun jug from Oliver Bonas. Inspired by the humble orange, use this to pour freshly squeezed juice for friends and family or margaritas after dark.
Frog Water Pitcher
If you’re after tableware with character it doesn’t get much better than this handmade water pitcher, made in partnership with Gorky Gonzalez. Delicately hand-painted, this makes a real statement.
Monique Lucas Lobster Print Apron
Can’t stand the thought of yet another novelty kiss-the-cook apron? Us too. Instead use this summer to display your love for the luxury crustacean with this fun UK-made lobster print apron from Monique Lucas. It will channel seaside vibes even when you’re miles from the coast.
Beatrix Candlestick Burnt Orange
Pre-orders are open for this quirky candlestick, the new home for your burgeoning tapered candle collection. Handmade and hand blown in Egypt, there are discounts if you buy pairs. Make them the centrepiece of your garden party feast.
Kilner 5 Litre Drinks Dispenser
Let your friends, family and guests serve themselves from this five litre drinks dispenser from Kilner, the home of the famous mason jars. It’ll add a retro kick to your party and is easy to use; just turn the nozzle and fill ‘er up!