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Feature: An Al Fresco Summer

An Alfresco Summer

After huddling indoors for the winter months, summer feels like the opening of a hamster cage, releasing us into nature. Everything just seems better done outdoors - eating, drinking and general merriment is amplified in the sunlight. If you're feeling a bit blue, our guide to the perfect alfresco summer will have you recreating the Sound of Music in your little patch of sunlight, or at the very least cracking a smile.

Food Festivals

Crave Sydney International Food Festival

Night Noodle Market at Crave Sydney

Date: 1 - 31 October, 2012

An entire month is spent on food and nothing else at the Sydney International Food Festival. The still-fresh festival is a showcase of cuisines of all types especially those of the newly defined Pacific Fringe region. One of the most popular events at the festival is the Night Noodle markets; imagine, if you will, a Thai hawkers-market transplanted into the leafy surroundings of Hyde Park in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. In the evening, beneath the lights and umbrellas, it becomes a magical place for alfresco dining and some outdoor drinking with a beer garden from Coopers - Australia's brew of choice.

For more info see www.cravesydney.com

Brusselicious 2012

Date: 1 January - 31 December, 2012

Dinner In The Sky in Brussels

Brussels, the city associated with the sprouts that children are fond of pushing about a plate, without actually eating them, is perhaps a tad more popular with the gastrotourist this year. The year of 2012 has been deemed the year to celebrate food and the Brusseloi have taken to it with aplomb.

The latest event on the calendar is Dinner In The Sky (see the picture to the right). Dangling from a crane with a Michelin-starred chef serving bite-sized portions of ambrosia is not an experience that many can claim. Views of the Atomium, Parc du Cinquantenaire, Palais Royal and Cambre forest complement the food very well as the cranes move about the city during the month of June. If you're afraid of heights: don't fear - a safety harness keeps you in your seat throughout.

Dinner In The Sky runs for June only, so book your tickets now before it ends.

For more info and delicious recipes visit www.visitbrussels.be

Fête de la Gastronomie

Date: 22 September, 2012

We would be remiss in not including a French festival in our list. Their cuisine is the envy of all others and don't they just know it. Fête de la Gastronomie is a recent initiative to start a national food festival, that - unlike others on this list - manages to maintain a far flung list of locations to enjoy it in. This year there will be an emphasis on celebrating unique terroirs (the environmental conditions that give a food type its distinctive taste) from all corners of France - from the cheeses of Papillon Roquefort to the wines of Bordeaux. This festival provides a national platter of the remarkable range of French cuisine and wine. Keep an eye on this page to see where events will be held in France (and abroad) as the festival dates nears.

For more info see www.fete-gastronomie.fr

Taste of Chicago

Taste of Chicago outdoor food festivalSource: Mike Shadle

Date: 11 - 15 July, 2012

Chicago becomes the site of the world's largest outdoor food extravaganza with Taste of Chicago in July; widely copied but never quite as good as the original that started 32 years ago on Michigan Avenue. The event today has conquered the vast expanse of Grant Park with mobile kitchens, taste labs and participating restaurants throughout the Windy City. The festival includes the Petrillo Music Shell Concert with artists such as Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Khan, but the real headline acts are the celebrity chefs that will passing through on successive days: beginning with Carlos Gaytan on the 11th to MasterChef star Graham Elliot and ending with a masterclass on seasoning with Jimmy Bannos.

For more info see www.explorechicago.org

San Francisco Street Food Festival

Date: 18 August, 2012

Street food gets a bad rap wherever you travel. In Delhi it's blamed for the belly ache, in New York the Michelin-starred chefs sniff derisively at food trucks and everywhere street stalls are considered too base for the refined palate. But once a year the kitchen chefs take a backseat to the artists on the street, who make fine foods on the fly - often without a formal education. The area between Treat to Shotwell Street will be milling with street vendors and approximately 80 000 visitors eager to experience cheap quality foods.

The event raises funds for La Cocina - an incubator for growing low-cost food businesses; entrance is free but if you can make a donation, help La Cocina grow small businesses.
Watch the video below for highlights of the 2010 event.

For more info see www.sfstreetfoodfest.com

Outdoor Refreshment

As the fresh air of summer beckons us outside, many a watering-hole tempts us to grab a few mates and crack open some refreshments. Whether you’re up for a couple of pints, or prefer an ice-cold soft-drink, there’s something almost magical about summertime and drinks alfresco. We’ve gladly put in the hours to discover the best outdoor refreshment spots the UK has to offer.

On the Roof Top

Enjoy a drink on the roof top

Queen of Hoxton, London

This rooftop bar in London’s East End is the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon or starry night. What could be better than relaxing in comfy chairs, drink in hand, high above the city with nothing but open skies overhead. The Queen of Hoxton not only offers a variety of cold beers and a new, extensive cocktail menu, but 5 days a week it is also transformed into the ultimate open-air movie experience. The Rooftop Film Club screens a variety of movies, from favourite classics to cult and recent releases - all on the big screen, with wireless headphones - right next to a well-stocked bar.

Website: www.queenofhoxton.com

At the River-Side

The King’s Head, Northamptonshire

Situated in the quaint village of Wadenhoe, Northamptonshire, The King’s Head is a 400 year old pub that caters to the contemporary palate. The picture-perfect riverside setting seems to almost beckon one to revel in the splendour of summer - why not spend the afternoon relaxing in the shade of the ancient willow trees at the edge of the River Nene, as boats arrive and moor at the nearby dock? The East Midland village may be a secret to many, but the superiority of this 17th-century inn is evident. Visit the King’s Head to indulge in the traditional, cask-brewed ales, a variety of international wines or other refreshments.

Website: www.wadenhoekingshead.co.uk

At the Sea-Side

Enjoy a drink at the sea side

The Spyglass Inn, Isle of Wight

The Spyglass Inn is arguably the UK’s most memorable seaside drinking establishment. Situated at Ventnor Beach on the Isle of Wight, it boasts both a picturesque location and idyllic view of the English Channel. As a family run pub, patrons are assured of a fun and friendly atmosphere where well-behaved dogs and muddy boots are always welcome. Step inside to check out the enormous collection of seafaring memorabilia or make the most of the extensive bar selection as you soak up the sun on the terrace, right at the water’s edge.

Website: www.thespyglass.com

On the Water

Conham Ferry and Beeses Tea Garden, Bristol

Head to Bristol to experience the oldest river ferry crossing on the River Avon. Run by Beeses Riverside Bar and Tea Garden, the Conham Ferry has been in operation since 1846 and has quenched the thirst of many a water-farer. The ferry runs from the Hanham side of the river to Beeses and offers guests the chance to unwind in the fresh summer air before reaching the garden to enjoy some tea or a drink from the bar. So jump aboard the Conham Ferry and soak up the sunshine.

Website: www.beeses.co.uk

In the Garden

Picturesque Cumbria

The Mortal Man, Cumbria

The Mortal Man is situated in the idyllic country of Cumbria. Said to be one of the most beautiful regions in the UK, Cumbria attracts people wishing to experience the allure of the mountains, lakes and rural countryside. Originally a small ale house, the pub boasts a wide variety of traditional ales and offers patrons the opportunity to enjoy a beer in the garden that was recently voted as one of the best in the country. Head to the Mortal Man to bask in the sunshine and fresh air and delight in the relaxing atmosphere of the lake district.

Website: www.themortalman.co.uk

Al Fresco Dining

The UK is a different place altogether during the summer. We shed our raincoats and wellies for more comfortable attire, take time to smell the roses and generally spend as much time outside as possible. All the vitamin D seems to make people friendlier and more cheerful, too.

A meal outside can make you feel like you’re on holiday during the middle of a regular week. And if you are on holiday, it just takes the enjoyment of eating and sight-seeing to another level. This month, in celebration of summer and the joy of alfresco dining outdoors, we’re taking a look at the best places to eat in the UK.

Countryside Chic

Llawnroc Hotel, Gwineas

Gwineas, Gorran Haven

Gorran Haven is a quaint village on Cornwall’s south coast – it’s peaceful, removed and vibrant all at the same time. Part of the stylish Llawnroc Hotel, Gwineas (named after the rocks that stick out of the water near the shoreline) offers a creative menu that takes the best in local produce and traditional bistro meals, and gives it all a 21st century twist – see their cider glazed roast ham with a beetroot and pear chutney for evidence. The other great attraction is the prime location to admire this slice of paradise. From the outdoor patio you have a view of the town, the hills and the ocean in the distance. As part of the Llawnroc Hotel, the bistro is as welcoming to out-of-towners as it is to local regulars.

Website: www.thellawnrochotel.co.uk

A Beach Holiday Resort Experience

South Beach Café, Jurassic Coast

The newly established South Beach Café is an edition to the Haven holiday resort, which overlooks Sandy Bay – one of the Jurassic Coast’s finest beaches. The setup is rustic, but stylish, making use of a driftwood bar counter and barrel tables – all adding to the relaxed atmosphere of the café. Accomplished head chef, Seldon Curry, has tailored an exciting menu that showcases the best local produce – most notably the house special of Brown Crab. As Curry explains, “we believe you can really taste the difference, as all our food arrives daily and is caught within a 30 mile radius of the park. We make everything fresh in our kitchen, even the mayonnaise.” For people who aren’t staying at the resort, there are a number of scenic walking trails nearby that will help you work up an appetite for the meal ahead.

Website: www.haven.com

Inner City Dining

The Victoria, Richmond

The Victoria, Richmond

Just a stone’s throw away from Richmond Park, you’ll find The Victoria, an 1800’s Public House that has been transformed into an award winning gastro-pub and boutique hotel. This summer, owner and ex-Michelin Starred chef, Paul Merrett, will be making customers very happy with a BBQ menu for customers in the elegant garden area. His regular menu is the result of hard work, experience and a flair for creative cooking. Dishes like the tempura fried Monte Enebro cheese with thyme blossom, honey and figs provide a chance for Paul to create a special dining experience for the fussiest palate with his light dishes. Aside from incredible food and great service, the setting is quiet, relaxed and elegant – ideal for a break from the city, without having to leave town.

Website: www.thevictoria.net

Lake District Elegance

Masons Arms, Cumbria

The Masons Arms is everything you want after a day of hiking or exploring the Lake District. Besides the cosy setting and warm atmosphere, it boasts a world-class view of the Winster Valley – the main reason why tables on the heated terrace outside are always in high demand. Cumbria is renowned for great landscapes rather than weather, so it’s a royal treat to sit outside at a warm, comfy table facing scenery that will make you appreciate the beauty of the UK. Then there’s the menu… Masons offers a selection of the finest meat and produce from the area (everything from Cartmel lamb shanks to roasted pork belly), with a fantastic wine and beer menu to boot. Like we said, it’s everything you want after a day in the Lake District.

Website: www.masonsarmsstrawberrybank.co.uk

A Gourmet Beach Barbeque

Kahuna, Cornwall

Kahuna, Cornwall

Perched just above the shoreline at Tolcarne Beach, you’ll find Kahuna restaurant and its incredible outside deck area. It’s modern but comfortable, romantic but lively, and best of all: it’s as close to the beach as you can get. Head Chef Ryan Mathers has created his own brand of British and international food, using excellent fresh and local ingredients that find their way onto dinner plates within 24 hours. From mussels to monkfish, seared lamb to Pad Thai, wild mushroom pancakes and falafel, the menu offers a great blend of meat, seafood and veggie meals (all highly rated). This all works together in making it a great place to bring crowds of friends for a meal on a warm summer evening.

Website: www.kahunatolcarne.co.uk

The Henley Fine-Dining Experience

Mosimann’s River Restaurant and Champagne Bar

Coppas bring an exciting, fine dining experience for those down at Henley during the biggest regatta in the UK. Mosimann’s River Restaurant and Champagne Bar is a gastronomic extravaganza, set up in a grand marquee along the banks of the Thames River – almost close enough to get splashed as the rowers go past. The classy menu of lobsters, fresh seasonal vegetables and an array of decadent desserts is quite fitting for such a royal occasion. You’ll need to book ahead of schedule, as seating is limited and the riverside restaurant is only there from June 27 until July 1 – if you miss out you’ll have to wait another year to get a table.

Website: www.henleyregatta.com

Last Updated: June 2012

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

A timid traveller, but a traveller none the less; Gugulethu is in his element lost and without a map - preferably with a companion willing to listen to his tall tales. He's our resident expert on the best muffins in town.