The fact that Dubai is located more than 3,400 miles from London’s Westminster Abbey hasn’t stopped the city from going royal wedding crazy. Innumerable hotels, restaurants and bars across town are screening the occasion on April 29, along with all manner of events – from brunches and afternoon tea to polo and garden parties. But tickets are selling fast and by the time you read this, it may be too late.
Stuck without a ticket to one of the official events? We recommend a picnic. Why? Because a picnic is a quintessentially English pastime, a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the weather before it gets too hot, catch up with friends, and raise a glass to Wills and Kate’s nuptials.
But picnincking isn’t simply a matter of laying out a rug and opening a bag of Doritos. A picnic requires planning, which is why we sought the advice of Dubai’s Mr Picnic, Etienne Haro (pictured above right). Formerly maître d’ of Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire, Etienne now oversees Blades Picnic Brunch at Al Badia Golf Club, an event that, since launching in a couple of months ago, has been booked up without fail every Friday.
‘To have an enjoyable picnic, you have to have enjoyable weather,’ says Etienne. ‘So that’s really where you should start – don’t risk your picnic if you can see the clouds coming. A picnic is a relaxed affair; you don’t want to have to wrap up everything as soon as you’ve got it out.’ Clouds in late April aren’t really an issue in Dubai, but some may find the heat a little too much. That’s why Time Out suggests ladies come equipped with parasols, while gentlemen should sport wide-brimmed hats.
‘Then there’s the picnic blanket, which is really important,’ continues Etienne. ‘It’s vital to have a good-quality blanket, and it needs to be large enough. There’s nothing worse than there not being enough space so you end up sitting on wet grass or the dirt. After all, grass stains, are never a good look after lunch.’
The final consideration is location. ‘Picnics are great because you build your own little restaurant wherever you want. It doesn’t have to be the most gorgeous place, just a place that is quiet and calm, with a bit of shade and preferably some grass – a rare commodity in Dubai!’
The weather is guaranteed to be hot on a UAE picnic, so refreshing drinks are essential. Etienne suggests preparing a nice iced tea the day before. ‘I like really strong black tea, then I blend it with three things – fruit juice, a little Sprite, and some syrup, the same flavour as the juice. So, for example, I love to do it with peach – a nice peach nectar and peach syrup to sweeten it, then a touch of Sprite. Keep it in the fridge overnight so it settles nicely, then you serve it the next day.’
Having worked in the restaurant business all his life, Etienne knows that water is essential for any meal, let alone one in the sun. Not only will several bottles of chilled mineral water keep you nicely hydrated, but they’ll also ready you for the après-meal activities. ‘I suppose it depends on where you come from. In France a picnic would always be followed by a game of petanque, but when I picnicked with families in Australia, there was no negotiation – it was always a game of cricket.’
Any last words of advice? ‘Most importantly, you need good company. If you’re picnicking out in the middle of nowhere, you need to be sure you get on with the people you’re with.’
Blades Picnic Brunch Dhs195 (soft drinks), Dhs330 (selected house beverages), Dhs495 (bubbly). Served Friday noon-4pm, weather dependant. The brunch will go on hiatus during summer and will resume in October. Al Badia Golf Club, Festival City (04 701 112)
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 tbsp tarragon vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
100g thick mayonnaise
Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
900g new potatoes, such as Jersey Royals or Charlotte, washed or scrubbed
1 bunch chopped fresh tarragon
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes until just tender. Drain well and, when cooled, cut large potatoes into halves or quarters.
2 Place the potatoes in a mixing bowl with all the ingredients and toss them gently to ensure they’re evenly coated. Serve the salad at room temperature.
Cajun couscous salad
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 red onion, very finely chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice 1 red onion, finely diced
1 chilli, de-seeded and finely diced
30g sunflower seeds, toasted
30g sesame seeds, toasted
30g soaked raisins
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Cajun spices salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Cover the couscous with twice its volume of hot water and leave to soak for 10 minutes.
2 Add remaining ingredients and leave to stand for 30 minutes to let the flavours develop. 3 Serve at room temperature.
For the pastry
175g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
75g butter, plus extra for greasing
(Alternatively, use ready-made pastry)
For the filling
250g cheddar, grated
200g veal bacon, chopped
5 eggs, beaten 100ml milk
200ml double cream
Freshly ground black pepper 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 To make the pastry, sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until you have a soft breadcrumb texture. Add enough cold water to make the crumb mixture come together to form a firm dough, then leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
2 Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line a 22cm well-buttered flan dish. Don’t cut off the edges of the pastry yet. Chill again.
3 Preheat the oven to 190°C.
4 Remove the pastry case from the fridge and line the base of the pastry with baking parchment, then fill it with baking beans. Place on a baking tray and bake blind for 20 minutes.
5 Remove the beans and parchment and return the pastry to the oven for another five minutes, then remove from oven and reduce the temperature to 160°C.
6 Sprinkle the cheese into the pastry base.
7 Fry the bacon pieces until crisp and sprinkle over the cheese.
8 Combine the eggs with the milk and cream in a bowl and season. Pour over the bacon and cheese. Sprinkle thyme over the top.
9 Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool and set further.
10 Trim the pastry edges to get a perfect edge.
Al-fresco dining accessories
Time Out’s pick of the best outdoor essentials
Weber Charcoal Go-Anywhere Grill, Dhs359, available at Harvest Home (04 342 0225). Two-person picnic basket by Navigate Ltd, Dhs385, available at Ace Hardware, www.aceuae.com.