The best picnic hampers in London
What is it? Hampstead’s brilliant foodie pub does takeout, and we’re really happy about it. Expect good, strong, traditional picnic fare – if hampers had biceps, this one would be swanking up and down muscle beach. The sausage roll is encased in melt-in-your-mouth pastry, the terrine is light yet full of flavour and the scotch egg laughs in the face of inferior specimens. Just when you think you’re facing pig overload, the radish-focused salad swoops in and offers a light, fresh alternative.
Eat it… On Hampstead Heath, just over the road.
Price The basic hamper at £40 is intended for two people but could easily feed three burly builders.
Best for Catering for the perennially famished (eg children).
What is it? A seriously smart hamper – you really ought to wear a dinner jacket for this one. From the silver-trimmed plates and ribbon-wrapped napkins, to the popcorn topping on the chocolate mouse and the pomegranate on the smoked salmon, rarely is a picnic graced with so much attention to detail. The salads, brimming with wonderful flavours, are substantial in the most delicate way. The rye bread, dense and cake-like, gets bonus points for its accompanying monogrammed butter dish. Puddings are cracking, too – we reckon even Gregg Wallace would be chuffed with the cheesecake’s biscuit base.
Eat it… In Hyde Park.
Price £100, which includes a blanket and champagne. It’s designed for two, although it’d easily feed four.
Best for Impossibly civilised picnicking.
What is it? A picnic from Dukes Hotel in Mayfair, brought to you in Green Park by an actual butler. On a warm day, this is a pretty blissful alternative to sitting in a posh restaurant. Dukes is on the edge of the park and its delicately poached salmon, killer scotch eggs and selection of fresh salads and sides arrived in perfect condition. You can pay extra for champagne or an ice bucket (or BYO, this is the park, after all). Even better: call them once you’ve finished and they’ll come and clear up the empties.
Eat it… In Green Park.
Price It’s £39.50 per person, but servings are ample and they do a version for veggies.
Best for Popping the question.
What is it? Fortnum & Mason is the don of the London hamper scene. Its Festival Hamper is approximately the same price as a weekend at Glastonbury, but it has everything you need and more for a sumptuous party in the park. Delicate smoked salmon, hearty pork in various hand-to-mouth formats, three bottles of nicely picked wine and fizz, quiches, salads, fruit platter, stinky British cheese, chocolates and condiments – all elegantly served on platters and in tumblers that actually pass the ‘stands up on grass’ test. A stone-cold summer classic.
Eat it… In Hyde Park.
Price Um, £280. It’s meant to serve four but should satisfy at least six. Includes picnic glasses and bottle opener plus the trademark hamper.
Best for Aristocratic indulgence.
What is it? A short walk from pretty Primrose Hill, the original outpost of this delightful deli is perfectly placed for scoffing in the sun – although you need to pre-order 48 hours in advance. The British option has scotch eggs, sausage rolls, salad, cheese, strawberries etc; the Continental includes focaccia, charcuterie, houmous etc. Veggies have their own line-up. The picnics are loaded up in an M&M cool bag with eco-friendly paper plates, cutlery and napkins, plus a choice of still or sparkling water. Otherwise, buy your own cool bag (£6) and fill it with a pick ‘n’ mix selection of goodies from the shop.
Eat it… On Primrose Hill.
Price The British: £35 for two (£55 for four). The Continental: £30 for two (£50 for 4).
Best for Incredibly sleek picnicking (thankfully it’s only minimal when it comes to the hamper design).
What is it? This impossibly quaint Kew bakery is named after the classic British curd tart (a favourite of Henry VIII who was a svelte lad until he discovered them). Its hampers are equally traditional: the dainty sandwiches have a respectable amount of cucumber in them, the pies and sausage rolls are wonderfully meaty, and there’s a gorgeous choice of patisserie – including the aforementioned Maids of Honour. When you spend more than £100 (easy when you upgrade with some booze) your picnic can be delivered to you free of charge (within three miles of the shop).
Eat it… In Kew Gardens.
Price Options start with the Victoria (£13 per person), although you can go fancy with the Royal (£23) or even the Deluxe (£52, recommended for two).
Best for Being transported back to days of yore.
What is it? Our friends across the channel birthed the picnic, so it’s only right that French bakery Paul would come up with something for us to chomp on en plein air. While the sugar-high-inducing selection of mini-doughnuts is the highlight, the Niçoise salad has its component ratios right. It comes with a suitably French gingham tablecloth, so you can pretend that you’re picnicking in Paris, with Jean Valjean.
Eat it… In Richmond Park.
Price £18 for two and you’ll probably have some doughnuts left – just make sure the deer don’t scoff them.
Best for Chilling with Bambi.
What is it? The fairy-lit Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park is one of the prettiest picnic spots in London, and they’re going increasingly Glyndebourne with the catering. You need to pre-book (by 3pm the previous day for matinees, 10pm for evening shows), but your ready-made selection (plus a programme) will be laid out at your reserved seating once the gates open. Their Luxury Hamper is light and delicious on food (an elegant sufficiency of either meat or cheese plus Italianate veggie antipasti) and also packs a very decent Canard-Duchêne champagne. The cheaper and more robust Great British Picnic features sandwiches, pork pie, sausage rolls, strawberries and a bottle of Chapel Down wine.
Eat it... in Regent's Park, of course.
Price Great British Picnic for two: £49.95. Luxury Hamper for two: £89.95.
Best for Feeling like you’re at Glyndebourne in NW1.
Add a bit of pep to your picnic
Pre-mixed drinks have come a long way from the days of Don Simon sangria. Now you can find sophisticated blends of drinks by the bottle made by your favourite London bars, and classic cocktails in cans from the big supermarkets. We did the right thing and taste tested a whole host of cocktails in containers to find the freshest on the market.
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