Photos: Dougal Gorman
If last weekend’s picnicocalypse was anything to go by, we’re about to do a whole lot more.
The weather is (currently) balmy, the restrictions are getting a little looser, and I think we’re all ready to get a bit loose too. Sitting in communal areas with close friends again this weekend (at an appropriate distance from other gatherings of vaccinated people) is in, and in case you’ve forgotten how to socialise in the real world with the humans you do not live with, here’s a little ‘How to Picnic’, with love, from me to you.
Campo Park hangs are a staple of summertime in the Inner West, regardless of pandemic-induced restrictions. But you can level up by not forgetting the picnic rug (guilty) and pre-planning something for dinner as the day bleeds into the evening and people aren’t ready to go home yet. A light chilled red or a cheeky pét-nat and pizza is a combo as yet unrivalled, in my opinion; vino joyfully splashed about in plastic cups paired with a slice of pizza sounds like heaven. Grab more serviettes than you think you’ll need because half will probably fly away, and you might knock over a glass of pinot (don’t litter). Westwood Pizza and Bella Brutta are close by Camperdown Park, but word on King Street is—you’ll need to order ahead. Like 3 pm ahead.
Being able to eat things with your fingers is kind of imperative when you’re dining al fresco because you need to hold your drink or gesticulate while you talk. Deli meats, an array of cheeses, stuffed olives, bread and dips, pickles etc. are a tried and tested picnic staple, for good reason. Add a jug of homemade sangria and some of the fancy cocktails that are still available for takeaway, and any park can feel like happy hour in Spain. You can put it together yourself with a trip to your favourite Mercado (that’s Spanish for market!), but if you’re happy to leave it to the experts, there are heaps of forward-thinking vendors who have ready-to-go packs. Some might call it lazy; I call it efficient time management.
Centennial has been a sanctuary for me for the decade I’ve lived in Sydney. Perfect for long lazy afternoon picnics where everyone brings the edible contribution assigned to them in a mildly stressful group chat. The park is a verdant suburban oasis, ideal for those keen on staking out a patch of grass and settling in for the long haul. There are BBQs in some areas if you have friends who like to stand around a flat-top grill and cook outside. Bring a bottle of wine (or two), and maybe pétanque, finska, a pack of cards, or Twister. I like a rosé or an easy-drinking orange wine for daytime park times, both of which go well with pretty much anything and will pair perfectly with the inevitable sunset. Large-format bottles optional but highly recommended.
If you have something significant to celebrate (even if it’s just socialising with friends for the first time in ages), why not push the proverbial boat out and lean in? It’s nice to splurge, so get a little tin of caviar, some bellinis and all the trimmings—or go the high-tea route: scones, pastries, egg salad and cucumber sandwiches sans crusts. Boujee times require champagne or something fizzy and pink. The pop of a bottle will catch the attention of the other picnickers who will all be wildly envious of your glorious set-up. And if you don’t trust yourself with champagne flutes on uneven ground, sparkling wine still tastes excellent out of tumblers. BYO parasol and croquet set; extra points for matching linen outfits.
I am a big fan of a Tupperware container full of pre-cut watermelon and a couple of fruity seltzers. Gordon’s Bay might be a bit of a trek to get to, but I love a beach hang without the inconvenience of sand and its dog friendly, which is delightful. Seltzers are generally low-ish ABV and are a refreshing style of beverage—nice for a long stint in the sun (don’t forget the sunblock). It absolutely does not have to be a watermelon, though; any fruit is amazing when you’re a human turned salt-encrusted mollusc, but preparation is key—i.e., don’t try to dismantle a pineapple on a rock with a swiss army knife in front of strangers.
While there is a lot of discussion about who makes the best fish burgers in Sydney (it’s Out of The Blue in Clovelly), I think we can all agree that any burger tastes better after a swim. Clovelly is also an epic spot for a dip if you can find a bit of free concrete to claim. Keep it simple: grab your towel, a six-pack of beer, four mates, and your burger of choice. Eat it with both hands and don’t worry about getting messy because you can just toss yourself back in the ocean to wash away beetroot juice. Although we’re rocketing headlong back into sour beer season, I don’t think there is anything wrong with crushing an easy-going lager, like Tecate (my guilty pleasure).
Finally, being around open bodies of water always makes most people want to consume seafood—why is that? Are we trying to assert our dominance over the world that lies beneath? Whatever it is, oysters taste way better next to the ocean. Get yourself to the fish markets, accidentally spend too much on some cut-to-order fresh fish and the crustaceans, then head toward the coast. I know that the thought of white wine makes a lot of people squirm, but drinking something light, crisp, dry and a little bit salty like a muscadet or a petit chablis alongside your platter of fruits de mer will make you feel like a mermaid at her birthday party.
Have another great weekend!