It's fair to say the nation has all gone a little picnic crazy since the pandemic began, with the great outdoors being a safer place to meet friends and family.
A new buzzword in the world of alfresco dining (i.e. eating on grass) is 'blanqueting' – a luxury picnic-come-banquet held on a giant rug. We're sure the Queen would approve!
The fun new term was coined by BLOOM Gin, who are aiming to inspire people to glam up their picnics this summer.
MORE: Duchess Kate's picnic basket: the royal mum's favourite alfresco foods
Apparently, one in five Brits have a competitive streak when it comes to picnics and outdoor dining (you know who you are) and two-fifths of picnickers put more effort into their outdoor eating experience since the first lockdown, with some even impressing with a live string quartet. Wow.
Yes, HELLO! readers, blanqueting is to picnicking what glamping is to camping. There's even a new pastime associated with the trend called 'blanquetscaping' - the art of styling and setting a blanquet.
We're obsessed with this giant limited-edition blanquet for 'decadent outdoor entertaining' from BLOOM Gin, available to buy from firebox.com for £75.
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Event designer Fiona Leahy says: "The blanqueting trend is exactly what people are looking for after so many months of being stuck at home away from friends and family. It's the excuse we're all looking for to host something extra-special for loved ones."
Here's how to throw your own summer blanquet with tips from Fiona Leahy … ·
Styling your blanquet
Ask guests to BYOC (Bring Your Own Cushions), so that everyone has a padded seat at the blanquet - pillows and cushions are so great to have in abundance!
Floral foraging is key. Make the blanquet visually more ‘'eastlike' by dotting jam jars of summer flowers along the middle. I only use flowers that are from the surrounding areas so that it's more natural. Cow parsley and daisy chain napkin rings are perfect for this
Display food on an assortment of wicker trays for a visually pleasing way to display food. Pretty trays and platters are also practical for passing and sharing along the blanquette.
Use an assortment of vintage or older plates. Melamine or enamel plates are great but why not use a blanquet as an opportunity to bring out the lesser-used plates from your cupboard to bring some retro styling in?
Think about the cover: Position the blanquet under a tree and hang fairy lights from its branches or under a few colourful giant parasols for added wow-factor.
MORE: Royal picnics! 8 best photos of Duchess Kate, Sophie Wessex, The Queen & Co outdoors
Treats and tipples
Add colour with different garnishes: You can turn drinks into visual showstoppers by adding colourful fresh fruit and pretty edible flowers. BLOOM Gin’s ready-to-serve range is great for this with it’s floral flavours.
When it comes to food, presentation is everything. Choose a mix of sweet and savoury treats that will add pops of colour to your blanquet styling, like olives, watermelon, angel cakes, crudites and a bright purple aubergine dip.
Hosting a blanquet
Be prepared and plan ahead. I love the idea of having a ‘banqueting box’ full of all the essential things to help your feast go seamlessly. I would fill a big wicker hamper with all the elements you would normally need when hosting a meal.
Bring the fun and games. Banqueting is all about embracing the chance to up the effort when it comes to entertaining, so bring some outdoor games along to the event, like a colourful set of skittles or a croquet set.
Create a designated drinks area/hamper with all the accoutrements such as ice and optional gasses are nice too. It’s nice to have areas around the Blanquette where people can serve themselves and mingle.
Create a playlist. I like to set the mood with a wireless outdoor speaker - you can have a lot of fun with nostalgic songs, start with something lively and upbeat and move into something more mellow and swooning as the day progresses and people kickback on the blanquet after food. Jazz is great for this.
Keep a backup of brollies in a nearby car. Equally important for rain cover or providing shade and sun protection. And make sure you have SPF on hand for everyone too.
Joining the brand’s existing ready-to-serve range - which includes the classic BLOOM London Dry Gin & BLOOM Gin and Rose Lemonade – is BLOOM Gin’s new Passionfruit Soda (RRP: £2.50 per 275ml serve), available to purchase from Sainsbury’s stores nationwide.
For blanqueting inspiration, check out @BloomGin on Instagram and to explore BLOOM Gin's full gin range, visit bloomgin.com.