Braving the elements
By Linda Parker
At the time of writing this (on 27th April) in the last couple of days we’ve had impressive rain storms, sleet, frost, horizontal winds and there’s been snow on the hills. Such is a British spring! However, if you’re optimistic enough to be making some al-fresco cooking and dining plans, here’s some fab ideas …
Set the outdoor scene by treating yourself to some lush tableware from a great selection at House of Fraser. It ticks three of the most fashionable trends at the moment – jungle greens, botanical motifs, and angular/prismatic shapes and patterns. See the range, which includes melamine Amazon plates and hammered acrylic tumblers here.
Three outdoor heating and cooking options; a round steel firepit with guard; an extra-large pewter effect chiminea with grill surface and a wonderfully retro-looking wood fired pizza oven. All available from Dobbies, take a look at the range here.
Kitting out the garden or patio is getting nearly as complex as decorating the kitchen or living room … we all want our gardens to look fabulous, but leaving it until Whitsun to embark on the project isn’t ideal. Not only will the garden centres be full to capacity, it means assembling the desired BBQ, firepit or oven in a rush. However, if you’re still deciding what to buy, consider fuel first. If you’re happy to buy bottled gas, that makes the whole thing simple; there’s a huge selection of gas-fired barbecues available, and you’ll be able to cater for large numbers easily. If you have access to a good supply of logs, coal or kindling, consider a wood fired oven or chiminea. If you’re happy to buy bags of charcoal, go for a standard barbecue, but make sure you’re not going to run out of charcoal mid-way through an event … As a rather lazy barbecue-r, I’m rather in favour of a lovely firepit as the centre of attention in the garden, as I admit to finding it easier to cater for guests using my normal oven and equipment. But the family loves a full-on barbecue, so I guess I’ll be joining the queue at the garden centre sooner rather than later. If you would rather spend the time browsing on-line, visit Riverside Outdoor Living for a very extensive and informative look at a huge selection of barbecues and equipment. We’re rather taken with three options, (from left, below) the Weber S-320 Spirit Premium Stainless Steel barbecue, which has a side-burner, warming rack and a heavy-duty Gourmet BBQ System grate. The Traeger Pro Series 22 has a digital controller, a large grilling surface and a large capacity, and wins on looks alone, quite frankly. If I was really going to push the boat out and create an ‘outdoor kitchen’ I must admit to being very tempted by the Outback Signature 6-Burner gas BBQ. This is purely because I’m a practical soul who takes pleasure in having cupboards and surfaces as well as a vast grilling area, side burner, rotisserie and cast iron cooking plates. It is £1199.99 though, but at least there won’t be any issues regarding space, size and quantities. However, whilst you are in the middle of a barbecue cooking frenzy, keep an eye on portion sizes! One very interesting item I read last week in the Guardian centred on our now-skewed concepts of serving sizes. Read the whole thing here , it’s definitely food for thought and a good excuse to buy some smaller plates!
Top notch equipment … The Weber S-320 (left), the Traeger Pro Series 22 (centre) and the Outback Signature 6 (right), all available from Riverside Outdoor Living
If you’ve got an outdoor gas firepit and some comfy chairs, and a semi-enclosed space, it’s going to be hard to move away from that spot. We love the casual, relaxed look of this outdoor space and let’s be realistic, it’s a very practical concept for our weather. The Cocoon Square Gas Firepit is made from composite stone, can be left outdoors all year round, has a 19.5kw steel ring burner with ceramic wood effect logs and stones. For full spec and details, visit The Internet Gardener here.
Back to the practical side of things, a small barbecue needs some surface and storage space, and the Garden Workstation by Forest Garden is just the job. It’s intended for use in a greenhouse or garden, but I think it would be a perfect addition to the terrace, with plenty of space for plates and serving equipment. Visit the Forest Garden website here for lots of practical ideas, not just for benches and work stations, but for structures and landscaping too.
As far as I’m concerned, having a barbecue or outdoor party is simply a very good excuse to invest in some new garden furniture. Take a look at the latest collections from Habitat and Next, which are very stylish. Habitat’s Vienna metal chairs are £50 each, the matching dining table is £195. The faceted planters are also from Habitat. View the collection here, and of course, keep an eye on the seasonal special offers too. For a rather more laid-back approach, and to be honest I could happily spend the entire summer sprawled on this sofa, look at the outdoor range at Next. This is the Taranto sofa set in grey. Simply gorgeous. For a more modest outlay, look at the Andover bistro set from Wyevale Garden Centres. That bright tangerine shade is spot on for this season and will brighten up the whole garden. It’s a bargain at £69.99, view the range here.
And finally …Perk up your outdoor colour scheme with three wondrous ideas from Debenhams. Left, Cuban striped cushion from Butterfly By Matthew Williamson, £24; Ben Di Lisi mixing bowl set, £25 and Ostrich cushion, also by Ben De Lisi, £40. All from Debenhams.