Curating luxury for the discerning traveller



Between 1 and 2pm, when the sun is high in the sky London’s green spaces are often swarmed with hungry workers enjoying their lunch in the open air. As they enjoy their sandwiches, what these crowds probably don’t consider, is that they are participating in a long tradition of British picnicking that stretches right back to the Middle Ages.

Originating as a Medieval outdoor feast enjoyed before hunting, it was the Victorian era that saw the picnic rocket in popularity, as the expanding middle class embraced the idea of dining outdoors. The artistic, literary and philosophical ‘Romantic’ movement felt that the bloody events of the French Revolution, industrialisation and urbanisation had proved that civilisation should be abandoned so that man could return to the simple pleasures of nature.

The work of poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and artists including John Constable highlighted the beauty of the natural world to the Victorian public, who began to embrace the great outdoors. Victorian families flocked to enjoy sumptuous food in the company of nature and meals included components as lavish as iced Champagne and lobster tails in mayonnaise, often accompanied by the obligatory cups of tea prepared on a kerosene burner. | | |

Jun 27th 2014

Those wishing to retain some of the glamour of picnicking in days gone by, can purchase a vintage picnic set – something steadily growing in popularity. Tim Bent, founder of English leather accessories and travel goods shop Bentleys, outlines the appeal of his vintage basket as “quality and craftsmanship, charm and uniqueness” and, as a result, he has sold his sets to customers as diverse as “African safari lodges, classic car owners and Glyndebourne enthusiasts”.

If you are looking to pick up a hamper of your own, Bentleys currently stocks a rather fine example from 1910, previously owned by a Middle Eastern prince and housed in a solid hide case. The set includes bone china teacups and saucers, mother of pearl-handled cutlery and silver-plated sandwich tins – guaranteed to revive the opulence of a bygone era.


Brand-new hampers are also playing a role in the burgeoning popularity of the picnic, such as David Linley’s classic design fitted with all the luxury touches a discerning picnicker could ever need. Inspired by the hampers of the Edwardian era, it features crystal Champagne flutes, hand-embroidered napkins and, in-keeping with the British obsession with politeness, extra glasses to accommodate unexpected guests. Car manufacturer Rolls-Royce has also brought the picnicking tradition into the modern age, offering its customers the chance to add a luxury picnic set to their Rolls-Royce Phantom. The hamper is made from oiled teak, hand-polished aluminium and saddle leather, and features perforated side panels that encourage airflow to keep your food fresh.

However, if you’re caught out by hunger pangs when you haven’t got your picnic to hand, London’s food outlets offer baskets stuffed full of delicious food and available to purchase on the spot. The Mount Street Deli can provide a picnic lunch for two that features rare beef with horseradish dressing and herb roasted salmon. Or why not indulge in the luxury picnic experience from Corrigan’s in Mayfair? Priced from £1,000, a personal butler will ensure your picnic is just so. All that’s left for you to do is to pick a sunny spot and enjoy.

If you want to enjoy your meal away from swarms of people, try these lesser-known picnic spots in the city

Kyoto Gardens, Holland Park
This hidden gem is the ideal spot to unroll your blanket and enjoy a picnic. It has a waterfall, as well as a pond stocked with koi carp.

Victoria Tower Gardens
Sandwiched between the Houses of Parliament and the river thames, these peaceful gardens feature a statue of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

Hampstead Heath Pergola and Hill Garden
Forgo the hustle and bustle of the Heath and make for this quiet spot to the west. The arts and crafts garden provides fantastic views over the capital.



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