Dubai is notorious for jumping onto the fad bandwagon, but somehow picnic fever appears to have escaped the emirate — until now. Outdoor dining is now making inroads into the city’s dining and social scene and, as with everything, the denizens of Dubai are doing it in style.
A perfect example of this is the Urban Picnic at Vida Downtown Dubai, a quirky concept that’s a fresh take on the city’s Friday brunch staple. “Dubai is a city that thrives on being unique, and the Urban Picnic is evidence of the city’s drive to create newer hospitality experiences,” says Spencer Lee Black, Executive Chef, Vida Downtown Dubai. “We are bringing the outdoors to guests within the boundaries of the hotel.”
For all those who want to make the most of the outdoors without the long trek to the desert and the risk of sand in your potato salad, what could be better than a hotel picnic. The Urban Picnic concept offers the chic style and ambience of a Parisian picnic, where guests can select food and beverage of their choice from an extensive line-up of gourmet dishes.
No crimping on style
In their new avatar picnics are no longer about raggedy blankets and quickly thrown-together sandwiches. Instead party planners and exclusive catering companies the world over are offering upscale picnic experiences. Perth-based Pop of Colour Events provides event planning, styling and entertainment services and an in-demand option as their signature picnic experience. Their picnics are tailored to the guest’s preference and are a great way to commemorate special occasions. From gourmet food to personalised themes and décor, these picnics are the epitome of chic dining.
In Dubai, Al Badia Golf Club has been offering a picnic experience for the past couple of years, one whose popularity, says Executive Club Chef Robbie Stokes, has grown more than 300 per cent from 2011. Packed with traditional English picnic favourites such as scotch eggs with piccalilli, prawn cocktail, crab salad, paté, mozzarella, crudités and dips, fresh baguettes and home-baked vegetable crisps, this is a great way to enjoy the green of the golf course.
“The venue and the views make all the difference and ours are absolutely stunning,” says chef Stokes. There is also a kid’s entertainment area, plus three live cooking stations, grills, live music and a weekly basket prize.
Even golf courses and farmer’s markets are cashing in on the popularity of picnics, offering opportunities for an upscale, unique dining experience. And while hotel picnics are becoming a trend that we hope to see become increasingly popular, there is no reason not to still have your gourmet grub outdoors. Taking picnics to new gastronomic heights, patisseries and speciality food stores across London, New York and Los Angeles are offering pre-made picnic baskets — something that we have now begun to see in Dubai.
The perfect winter afternoon is ideal for sitting in the park with yummy food and a blanket spread on the grass. But if you are looking for the perfect picnic without the back-end preparation, we suggest ordering a picnic basket from some of the city’s speciality food stores and restaurants.
Lafayette Gourmet at Dubai Mall has eight kitchens that produce outstanding Italian, Mediterranean and Asian favourites. They offer personalised hampers ranging from Dh120 to Dh995 (left), and this includes a selection of exclusive products from all over the world.
When planning a hamper opt for grazing food such as chips and dips, says chef Russell Impiazzi, Culinary Director at Lafayette Gourmet. “Make sure you have plenty of vegetable and bread sticks, guacamole and cream cheese: they make a healthy snack option and go well with cold cuts and meats.”
Another place that does gourmet food hampers and baskets is Market and Platters, where you can pick up to-go treats tailor-made to suit your requirement from Dh300 to Dh7,000. Chef Eric Martinet, Culinary Manager, Market and Platters, recommends foods from The Fine Cheese & Co range such as toast for cheese or fig crackers combined with jams, cheese or ready-made tapenade. “The home-made antipasti station at Market and Platters offers great options, or better yet, place an order for a ready-made sushi platter or cheese board.”
Picnic sandwiches are a must but forgo the plebeian fare for a lobster sandwich. Or an organic smoked salmon sandwich with Greek feta cheese, olive oil and dill, suggests Chef Martinet.
Hollywood A-lister Ashton Kutcher’s Ketchup, recently opened at Downtown Dubai, is known for serving upscale American classics with a twist. It is also a great place to pre-order your picnic essentials such as goat cheese and superfoods salad, Ketchup burger sliders, chicken club sandwich, French toast (maple syrup and fruits will be provided in separate packing) and the famous New York berry cheesecake.