Food tastes better outside. Sausages sizzling over a campfire, fish and chips on the beach, a Flake 99 ice-cream at the park after school, steaks on the barbecue… Hungry already?
This delicious alchemy even works on frankly substandard food – those campfire sausages tend to be a little burnt on the outside, don’t they? And yet the memory of their taste is more vivid than any of the Michelin-starred meals I’ve enjoyed.
In the summer we often take our tea to the local park and eat there. An average family meal turns into a celebratory event just by adding a few picnic blankets and the promise of an ice-cream from the van for dessert. Restaurants in London do tend to be expensive, but you can ‘eat out’ very cheaply in this city. My favourite venues are:-
- Golders Hill Park which is beautifully landscaped, with lots of open spaces. It’s particularly good for small children thanks to the free zoo, sand-filled toddlers playground, and adventure climbing frame. In summer there is often a free butterfly house too.
- The area of Hampstead Heath just above the Vale of Health is great for picnics – head up the slope to be wowed by a view of London which stretches out past Canary Wharf and the Gherkin to the rolling hills beyond. There is a wide open field sheltered by trees.
- Regents Park is a regular venue for us. In another life, I remember lying on a blanket reading all day in Regents Park while my husband sketched the other picnickers. Now that I’m a mother those ‘lying down reading’ days are over, but Regents Park is still a great place to be. Each area of the park has its own attractions – if you’re on the edge that runs along London Zoo you can see the giraffes and the zebras through the hedge. Whereas down by the ponds my son loves feeding his crusts to the rare breed ducks and herons and watching the rowing boats.
- Hyde Park is convenient if you are sightseeing or running errands in town, and it’s extensive enough to find your own private patch of grass even on the busiest day. My son and I watched some breakdancers practising there while we were eating our sandwiches last week.
Later this week I’ll be packing a picnic and joining my son and his primary school class on Hampstead Heath for a day out. I’ll be responsible for four or five of his classmates so I doubt if I’ll finish my sandwiches! But they will taste amazing.