On The Menu: Posh picnics; award-winning cocktails; Neapolitan cookies; Divertimenti and Daunt Books Culinary Salon; Caorunn Gin


This week I've been eating... posh picnics

With the weather as it is, an afternoon spent in a restaurant seems something of a missed opportunity. Much better to take the food outside and wallow in the warmth.

Little wonder that posh picnics are all the rage at the moment. Carluccio's does a fine Italian-themed one which will happily feed four people for £45.

But if Londoners really want to wallow in luxury as well as the heat, you can pick up an afternoon tea hamper from the boutique Ampersand Hotel in Kensington and eat it across the road in Hyde Park.

The tea, created by pastry chef Ji Sun Shin, includes a savoury tartine, scones sentried by pots of jam and clotted cream, and a variety of sweet pastries which run the gamut from classic Victoria sponge cake to the slightly off-beat English breakfast tea chocolate bonbon. All of which comes happily accompanied by a bottle of chilled champagne. £39.50, ampersandhotel.com

King of the bar

After a several-month-long competition that saw 44 bartenders from 44 countries compete in the grand final of the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year award, a winner was announced this week.

Spaniard David Rios picked up the silver cocktail shaker with a signature drink that was comprised of Ketel One vodka, Aperol-flavoured strawberries, sugar syrup, kumquat and grapefruit juice, egg white and orange bitters. Sound a bit of a faff to make at home?

Maybe so. Best to pay homage at Rios's Jigger Cocktail bar in Ciudadela, Spain instead.

Smart cookie

Growing up in my house, the chocolate part of Neapolitan ice cream was always the first bit to go (a pretty universal experience, I reckon).

Though I much preferred to smush the chocolate, strawberry and vanilla together to make a swirly hybrid.

Odd then to find Marks and Spencer's new Neapolitan cookies near perfectly recreate this unique taste, albeit in a crunchy biscuit form. £1.99, marksandspencer.com

Meal ticket

Tickets are now on sale (and flying out the door) for the Divertimenti and Daunt Books Culinary Salon events. Unsurprising, seeing as the five nights include talks by Florence Knight, Nick Lander and Bee Wilson. divertimenti.co.uk/culinarysalon

High spirits

Gin may have started life in Holland – Dr Franciscus Sylvius concocted it for stomach complaints in 1550 – but to me it will be forever the drink of lazy days in sunny countries. It comes down, I think, to the botanicals added to the clear spirit – all that juniper and orange peel.

Caorunn Gin is a little different, though – the aromatic adventure it takes you on is based a little closer to home: in Scotland. Here the flavour, very nice that it is, comes from heather, bog myrtle, rowan berry and dandelion. It's clear and dry and as fresh as Highland water. £29.49, shop.caorunngin.com

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