Rita Notes: Informal Outdoor Entertaining

Rita Konig shares her tips for informal outdoor entertaining in the summer

Read more Rita’s Notes here

Craig Fordham
Rita in the garden of her cottage in Wales

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Entertaining in the summer is so much more relaxed and abundant than in the winter. The minute you can spill outside, it all feels easier – for a start, you are not relegated to the kitchen in quite the same way and there seems to be a more even division of cooking between the sexes. I don’t really understand why, but men tend to feel a caveman-like ownership of cooking outside. 

When we are in Wales at our little hillside cottage, we do a lot of cooking outside – in fact, almost all of it, including breakfast. We do not have an American-style outdoor kitchen, but a small fire, tripod and griddle. Our favourite thing to serve is thinly sliced steak tagliata with salad and plenty of horseradish. I like the simplicity of it, as it allows for maximum lying around in the sun. I have written before about beautiful tables under dappled sunlight, but this is different. It is really a picnic at home. We drag a large wool dhurrie we bought in Morocco out onto the lawn with cushions for propping oneself up and a selection of straw hats in various states of collapse. 

The fun about this house and these picnics is that the china is completely different to the stuff I have in London. I use earthenware and pottery and odd bits of Wemyss Ware I’ve found in junk shops. I love French bistro china and have a few plates from Bazar on Golborne Road, W10; it’s an excellent source for what I call ‘cottagalia’. In Tetbury recently, I had a bit of a spree in a shop called Domestic Science (domscihome.wordpress.com). It is not one of the chic, scrubbed-oak and peeling French garden furniture shops that have taken over the town: it sells new stuff and a dealer called Huggy sells vintage china, Welsh blankets and quilts among the slew of feather dusters, enamel cups and charming papers. It is easy to miss if you are on an antiquing jaunt, but I advise looking for it. 

We bring knives and forks out in jugs and put them on the table along with plates and lunch is laid out for everyone to help themselves. Jugs of shandy are good – don’t laugh, the Spanish do this in a very chic way and if you make it with proper lemonade rather than something out of a can or bottle, it is really refreshing. Jugs of it look terrific, especially if you have vintage beer jugs. Josephine Ryan (josephineryanantiques.myshopify.com) often sells them and I have found a dealer called Monique Relander on Decorative Collective (decorativecollective.com) who has them; they are largely Belgian and so smart.

I am quite particular about the sort of garden furniture in our rustic landscape; what I really like is rattan chairs with soft cushions. I have a hotchpotch of them and they are terribly comfortable – especially with proper cushions in the seat and back, rather than ‘outdoor’ cushions, which are simply never comfortable. I have recently found a Danish company, Liggestolen (liggestolen.dk), which sells rattan sunloungers and chairs, reminiscent of Thirties gardens and those images of the Bloomsbury Set lying around outside in Wiltshire.

Lastly, for pudding, I have a supply of After Dinner Magnums, which are about two bites worth and just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Rita’s Picks

CLOCKWISE: ‘Straw Panama’, £490, from Holland & Holland. hollandandholland.co.uk; ‘Collection of Crystal Jugs’, by Monique Relander, £820, from Decorative Collective; Tunnock’s tin, £6.99, from Jeremy’s Home Store. jeremyshomestore.co.uk; ‘BaseCamp Barbeque’, by BioLite, £340, from The Conran Shop. conranshop.co.uk

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