11 Jul

Al fresco dining: this summer’s hit trend

This summer has seen UK consumers bring the inside outside by making gardens into the second living area.

With a run of weather like this, it’s hard to imagine why you wouldn’t spend the entire summer eating outside. However, experience tells us that with our precarious British weather, any investment in the al fresco dining concept will in all likelihood wreak a curse on the rest of the season, creating a run of bad weather that can only be blamed on one’s self.

However, with the sun out and the evenings long, for those who are brave enough to tempt the notoriously volatile British weather gods, now is the time to seize the moment, and enjoy languorous long evenings of socialising, family gathering or simple quiet reflection Mediterranean style.

Balcony view across the beautiful waters in Portofino

Photo: Tyson Sadlo, Belmond Hotel, Portofino

So here is Westbury’s snapshot of the high impact trends in al fresco dining that are shaping the market in 2018/19.

Relight my fire

Fire is a key feature of the al fresco dinner party in 2018, with outdoor fireplaces complete with ledged seating areas gracing the gardens of those dedicated to the cause. For those who might not need such a permanent adornment, fire pits and pizza ovens are also popular ways of introducing a warm and spectacular display of light and maintaining that essential primordial vibe.

Plush sofa style outdoor seating is a greater way to bring a bit of the inside out.

Outdoor kitchens are also another hit trend in 2018, with people taking the outdoor cooking concept to a completely new level. These kitchens often incorporate granite or wooden preparation areas, butler’s sinks, pizza ovens, outdoor cookers, and increasingly the item that is truly bang on trend – the Japanese kamado ceramic grill – or now commonly known as the ‘Big Green Egg’ having become what Hoover is to vacuuming.

Home comforts

Both in the restaurant trade and domestically, there is a sense that outdoor furniture should be of the same ilk as that found inside – effectively reversing the bringing the outside inside trend. Thus, the quality of al fresco dining furniture has improved, with manufacturers utilising varied materials to create weather-resistant and inviting furniture, complete with comfort elements and accessories such as rugs, lamps and cushions.

Photo: courtesy of The Conran Shop

Green, grey and discreet neutrals were the dominant colours used in garden furnishings across many of the projects we’ve worked on this year, with the bold stripes and patterns of former seasons, definitely falling from favour.

In the same vein there has been a move away from the kind of tableware that is more typical of a picnic, toward the textured, earthy, ethnic, and rustic looking table adornments.

Photo: courtesy of The Conran Shop

Modifying your house

It might seem extreme, but for those who want to make a lifestyle out of al fresco, the ultimate house modifications are:

Hedging your bets with a glazed seating area

For those who want a guarantee that their al fresco dining event can go ahead regardless of the weather, the integration of the outside and inside space can be achieved through the incorporation of orangeries/garden room extensions or the use of stacking doors/generous glass door openings and high levels of glazing that create an indoor/outdoor dining space.

Glass sliding doors open up onto outdoor pool area

Rooftop dining

It’s not for every house, but for those who can afford it – adapting your property to incorporate a rooftop dining area, is the ultimate nod to the al fresco cause. Rooftop/balcony dining areas afford users with the kinds of sunset and skylines that belong to the movies, bringing diners the ultimate open airspace for al fresco.

The end of the festoon lighting string?

Despite its endless popularity, particularly at weddings, in keeping with the idea that outdoor patio areas are an extension of the interior, we are also seeing outdoor lighting fixtures with shaded fabrics and the creation of products and styles that would be more at home inside the home.

So, with consumers bringing the outside in and now also bringing the inside out, when it comes to al fresco dining it would seem that blurring the boundaries between the two domains is the ultimate way to stay on trend and to enjoy the very best of both worlds.


If you’ve been inspired to add an outdoor kitchen to your garden space, read our article on the top 7 things to consider here.