A guide to the urban picnic


Photograph: Jason Lowe

Photograph: Jason Lowe

As we embark on London Wine Week, Eleanor Foulkes provides the urbanite’s guide to picnicking; a fuss-free approach for metropolitan foodies, and the perfect bottles to partner the city’s moveable feasts.

Summer may be the time for al fresco dining, but cosmopolitan life makes transporting sandwiches tricky, carrying plates a challenge, and finding space for a picnic blanket in heaving public parks a near impossibility. To save myself the stress and bother, I have whittled the urban picnic down to the basics: good food and great wine to go with it. Enter the street food stall.

Street food has boomed over the past few years, with anything from single airstream vans to indoor markets now offering cuisines from all over the world. These delicious – and often critically-acclaimed – destinations make creating your own picnic a waste of a good opportunity; just bring your own wine and sit down to the perfect urban picnic. Unhampered by bulky baskets, there is more room for the all-important bottles. Below are a few of my suggestions to match some of the most popular street food dishes.

Everyone loves American-style comfort food, and juicy pulled pork buns are the (slightly) more adventurous alternative to classic burgers. Choose a structured, peppery Syrah to cut through the rich flavours and sweet barbecue sauce.

With flavours evoking the Mediterranean summer, Paella is perfect street food. The use of huge pans (sometimes over an open flame) and a long cooking process create perfectly smoky flavours. To match the rice and seafood, choose an unoaked Marsanne/Rousanne blend such as white Rhône.

Bánh mì are the delicious offspring of French and Vietnamese cuisine. Crispy baguettes are filled with pre-cooked meat and crispy vetetables for a refreshing, filling meal. To match the aromatic spices of Vietnamese cooking, and reduce the effect of the heat of any chillis, choose a fresh, chilled Riesling.

Lobster has made the transition from fine dining to the streets of London, and makes for the perfect summer picnic when paired with crisp Chardonnay: specifically Chablis if it is served plain, or a richer white Burgundy when it is served with mayonnaise (or even mac’n’cheese).

Grilled cheese is big news in the street food scene, and – given England’s weather – purveyors of this homely staple may just be on to something. With many stands offering fine English cheeses and quality breads, choosing a grilled-cheese sandwich can be a gourmet affair, so pick a great wine to go with it. A ripe, fruity Australian Shiraz or a southern Rhône red with fine-grained tannins will stand up to the rich cheese nicely.

Ellie’s tip:

For white wine, or any wine that needs to be chilled, keep it in the fridge the night before and remove it just before you leave, insulated well. Failing anything more professional, a towel is excellent and should keep the bottle cool, even after a journey on the tube.

Browse our complete range of wines for the summer season on bbr.com.