garden dinner with nightlights and wine

Outdoor Dining Ideas For Fancy Al Fresco Feasts

Published: 22/07/2021

For many of us, the closest thing we’ll get to a foreign holiday this year is sitting out in our gardens, but does that mean we have to give up the little luxuries that make our holidays whole? Here at OnBuy, we certainly don’t think so! Tropical beaches aside, nothing quite encapsulates blissful holiday vibes quite like good food and great company, so why not add some flair to your al fresco set-up this summer?

Picture the scene: the weather is glorious, the smell of coconut-infused sunscreen fills the air, and the sound of giggles and gaggles from your loved ones plays like a chorus of contentment… All you need now is a delicious feast to sink your teeth into and a sumptuous set of garden furniture to sit on, and you may as well be in a far-flung, five-star beach hotel! Sounds good, right? 

No matter whether you’re lucky enough to have a large garden with space galore, or you’re living in a flat with a modest balcony to sit out on, this blog is packed with simple yet standout ways to bring fine dining to your doorstep. From outdoor cooking appliances to fanciful furniture, we’ll take you through some of our top tips to help you live out your foreign holiday fantasies from home and be the host with the most this sunny season. 

So, grab yourself a cuppa and get comfy while we guide you through some outlandish outdoor dining ideas that are sure to level up your al fresco feasts!

Creative cooking

man cooking at a BBQ

The most important part of any al fresco feast is, of course, the food - and by dining outside, you’ve got a great opportunity to switch up the traditional cooking methods and add some creativity and flair to wow your guests! When you think of having a summer supper outdoors, the first thought that comes to mind is a BBQ. A true crowd-pleaser, barbecues are a great go-to for the sunny season, but how can you take it from bog-standard to utterly brilliant? 

First thing’s first - flavour! Sure, everyone loves that chargrilled taste you can only ever seem to get from a charcoal BBQ, but why not ramp it up with a smoker? When paired with some flavour-packed chips or pellets, these awesome additions can take your taste buds on a tantalising journey like never before. There are endless pairings that can really pack a punch, but we recommend choosing apple for pork, oak for beef, alderwood for fish, and cherrywood for poultry. If you’re cooking a range of food on the one BBQ, go for an all-rounder like hickory. Simple yet effective, smoking your food can make any barbecued banquet a gourmet affair. 

Sure, a BBQ is a classic and never disappoints, but if you really want to take your dining experience to the next level, why not think about some alternative (and even more exciting!) options? First up - get yourself a pizza oven! Easy to use and ever so simple to maintain, these sought-after appliances allow you to bring the authentic taste of Italy to your garden. What’s more, these ovens cook pizzas in just minutes due to the super high temperatures they can reach - fantastic if you want to spend more time with your friend than fretting over the food! Whip up some dough (or use a pre-made base from the supermarket - we won’t tell if you don’t!), slather on your favourite toppings, and let the oven work its magic - you’ll be all set for an Italian-themed evening of al fresco eating in no time at all!

To really impress your guests and give them a dining experience they’ll never forget, why not get a hot plate and cook dinner right in front of their very eyes? This’ll add an element of glamour and drama to the evening, and you’ll be able to cook virtually anything you want! From steak to stir fry and even pasta, a hot plate provides endless opportunities to get creative with your cooking! A visual and taste sensation like no other? Yes please!

Glorious gardenware

fruit placed on a garden table

With the food sorted, it’s time to turn to the outdoor dining furniture and tableware that’ll transform your garden into an area fit for a fancy al fresco feast. Yes, say goodbye to that plastic set that saw better days decades ago, and say hello to elegant and ergonomic pieces that will take your garden from drab to utterly fab in an instant!

To set the tone and ensure your dining area exudes opulence, you’ll want to get yourself a smart outdoor dining table and a set of chairs that wouldn’t look out of place in an actual restaurant. For a sleek, stylish, and streamlined look, we recommend going for a matching garden dining set. On the hunt for some inspiration? Check out our dedicated guide here! From trendy rattan designs to hardy wooden wonders, supersized suites to intimate sets, you’ll find something for every space, taste, and need.

As you’ll be outside and British weather is... well... unpredictable at best, a gazebo will certainly come in handy! Alternatively, and if your garden is on the smaller side, space-saving alternatives like awnings and parasols work just as well for when the weather takes an unexpected turn. If you’re looking to keep the gathering going well into the night, snap up a patio heater and fire it up when things get a little chilly. Trust us, your guests will thank you for this!

Tasteful tableware

elegant table wear for the garden

In addition to your furniture, you’ll need to get some elegant tableware to truly encapsulate that feeling of fine dining. Of course, paper plates and disposable cups are incredibly handy when it comes to cleaning up, but if you’re looking for that touch of finesse, you really can’t go wrong with a matching set of crockery and cutlery

To give the true feeling of a special and sophisticated occasion, lay out a table runner and some complementary, colour-coordinated placemats. If you have a larger dining table, you could add a beautiful bouquet to the centre, or if you’re limited on space, a candle or two can really help to bring that fine dining feel to life. Next, roll up napkins into eye-catching designs - this’ll really impress your guests! Need a little help to get fancy with your folding? Take a look at the tutorial below! With so many simple yet show-stopping napkin fold ideas to try, you’ll be impressing your guests time and again.

Finally, add some wine glasses and extra embellishments of your choice, and you’ve made yourself an outdoor dining area befitting of a sophisticated restaurant! Simple yet incredibly impactful - what’s not to love?

Inspiring illuminations

family enjoying a garden dinner with night lights

Of course, every good al fresco dining event needs lighting to reflect the mood and help exude those relaxed, cosy vibes. Garden lighting comes in all shapes and sizes, and you have a wealth of options available to create the desired ambiance.

For ethereal elegance, we recommend choosing fairy lights. Whether you opt for twinkling or static, these delicate illuminations can add a cutesy yet chic element to your dining area. Spread them across the nearest fence, drape them over the table, or wind them around trees in close proximity to your table - the choice is yours! 

If you’ve got the space and are feeling really fancy, why not go the whole hog and have some wall lights installed or even some spot lights integrated into your patio? Alternatively, bring the boujee beach vibes to your garden and place some tiki torches in well-ventilated areas. From temporary temptations to more permanent fixtures, budget-friendly beautifications to more premium embellishments, the options are almost endless when it comes to garden lighting, and they can have a huge impact on the overall atmosphere.

Al fresco? All sorted!

friends enjoying a garden dinner

This summer, we’re celebrating the Great British staycation in style - and with these impressive ideas hidden up your sleeve, you’ll be indulging in that high-end holiday feeling in no time! Feeling inspired? Check out our full selection of garden supplies while you’re here! From fire pits to furniture and so much more, we’ve got everything you need to create your very own opulent outdoor oasis. 

So you’ve got your food, dining area, and lighting covered, now it’s time to plan the evening entertainment! Fortunately, our dedicated selection of outdoor living blogs and buyer’s guides are packed with a wealth of ideas to cover your al fresco amusements. Want to enjoy an after hours pool party? Check out our pick of paddling pools. Looking for something a little special for when the kids have gone to bed? There’s always adult party games that will keep the laughter flowing (along with the alcohol!). 

With OnBuy here to lend a hand, you’ll be enjoying the best summer on record before you know it - cheers to that!