With the warmer months comes overflowing beer gardens, tables perched on streets with clinks of glasses and smiles under sunglasses, and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to ‘make the most of it’. As the sun comes out, so do the customers, and alfresco drinking and dining takes over the UK. This practice, likely inherited from our Mediterranean counterparts, is a major perk of the short but wonderful, British summer.
With this comes new transformed summer menus, and outcry from customers for the sacred Aperol Spritz and the belief that if you have outside space, the people will come.
Where did alfresco dining originate?
The term itself is actually Italian, and loosely means ‘in cool air’, although it is often used to mean simply, outdoors. The practice is more popular in warmer climates as the fairer weather means it can be done year-round. This is likely one of the reasons for its popularity in the UK. It can easily remind one of sitting in the hot sunshine of the Mediterranean coast and make you believe, even if just for an hour, you are on holiday once more.
Why do we love eating outside so much?
Eating alfresco appeals to us for many more reasons than just reminding us of time spent in sunnier climates. Eating outside brings a buzz of excitement to any city. Suddenly the streets are lined with tables, the hum of music and the smell of food fills the air.
It’s easy to see why this can bring a smile to anyone’s face. After all, with the notorious British summer leaving just as quickly as it arrives, we are trained to capitalise on any glimpse of sunshine. Eating alfresco is part of the way in which we do that.
As well as that though, it’s the fresh air, the vitamin D, the more social feel that eating outside has. After all, it’s not just restaurants and cafes that can offer alfresco dining. With more street food markets opening in London every week, people are given the option to choose between the various styles of cuisine available and then return to the communal seating area shared by the vendors.
Why do we eat different things when we eat outside?
As the warmer months roll in, we see diets change and people ditch the warming, carb-loaded winter meals they love dearly for lighter dishes like salads and grilled meats. These changes aren’t only led by the fruits and vegetables coming into season, but also consumer attitudes to food.
People are more inclined to focus on health during the summer months, and look for lighter, healthier dishes instead of the heavier, more calorific dishes favoured in colder weather. Instead of looking to be warmed and comforted by food, they are looking for a dish that will taste like summer, remind them of warmer times and not overfill them. Dishes like salad that are filled with fruits and vegetables also help increase someone’s water intake and hydrate them, which is another reason these lighter dishes can be found at the top of an alfresco menu.
If you are looking for fantastic summer food and rooftop view, I’d recommend The Queen of Hoxton. The everchanging rooftop is the perfect place to grab a burger and a cocktail, in one of the most exciting spots in the city.
If you’d rather somewhere more upmarket, a stroll along the South Bank will reveal plenty of options for outdoor dining from popular chain restaurants like Wahaca and Nandos to more upmarket spots like the Midsummer Terrace at Sea Containers.
As I said, these summer months are fleeting, and I find nothing more relaxing than sitting in the sunshine with friends laughing over a delicious meal. I pray the sunshine stays around and we have more time to enjoy the wonders of alfresco dining.