How to Have a Perfect Picnic in Bloomsbury (and beyond!)

How to Have a Perfect Picnic in Bloomsbury (and beyond!)

Tuesday, 28 May 2024
Spring and summer in London are two seasons that bring out the best of London’s scenery and activities. With wisteria and daisies springing up across the city’s green spaces, restaurants and cafes serving up icy drinks and tasty takeaway food – it’s easy to be out and about enjoying all that London has to offer. However, there’s one way to celebrate the city’s warmer weather in style - and that’s to have a classic British picnic.  

Solo travellers will love the focaccia sandwiches at Cafe 49 on Marchmont Street, couples can celebrate anniversaries and engagements with a bespoke Fortnum and Mason hamper and bottle of bubbly, or families can feed the whole brood and experience local parks for a budget-friendly outing together. A picnic can be easily tailored to your preferences and group size! 

We understand that staying in a hotel means you can’t necessarily prepare food yourself, but don’t worry! London is filled with fantastic spots to grab delicious picnic snacks and leafy locations to lay down your blanket. Taste new food from local shops and restaurants that will make picnicking a stress-free experience. 

Here’s your ultimate guide to having a perfect picnic in Bloomsbury or surrounding central areas in London:

a healthy picnic spread A picnic can be as extravagant or as simple as you like. Local delicatessens such as La Fromagerie sell ingredients to build your own charcuterie.  

Best Picnic Spots in Bloomsbury and Nearby Areas 

Russell Square: Located right in the heart of Bloomsbury, Russell Square is a classic choice. This park is spacious, beautifully landscaped, and has plenty of benches and open grassy areas. It’s perfect for a relaxed afternoon amidst blooming flowers and tall trees; so why not pick up a tasty takeaway pizza from Blooms Pizza Café for your picnic in Russell Square Gardens? Tuck into a classic Margherita or be bold and opt for Hawaiian, a controversial choice but so delicious! All pizzas are made with a homemade marinara sauce on an oven-baked sourdough base. 

Bloomsbury Square: Just a short stroll from the British Museum, Bloomsbury Square Gardens offers a more secluded feel. This square is London’s oldest garden square, which was first landscaped in 1665 – that’s before the Great Fire of London and nearly 200 years before the Imperial London Family of Hotels came to the neighbourhood! The neatly trimmed lawns and flower beds make it a serene spot to unwind with your picnic basket. There is also a toddler playground ideal for young families visiting London

There are many other parks and gardens in the nearby area that are perfect for rolling out your picnic rug and settling down for the afternoon. From Tavistock Square dotted with Japanese maple trees, to Gordon Square near UCL, find a shady spot in Bloomsbury and relax with your favourite snacks. 
outdoor garden barbeque and a chef
A barbeque in Botanica Restaurant’s private garden. 

A Secret Garden: Rejuvenate in garden scenery and tuck into hummus with rustic bread, baked camembert or pan-fried sea bream in a creamy pea and pancetta sauce. These dishes may not be a classic picnic but in this secret garden at Botanica Restaurant, you will have your own table situated on their dreamy patio.  

Let their friendly team pour refreshments and serve your meal whilst you soak up the tranquil view of trees and flowers. On selected summer evenings Botanica Restaurant hosts a barbeque buffet; serving grilled meats and fresh salads that bode well with the chilled atmosphere of their private garden.  

Would you like to hire this secret garden for a bespoke private event? The Imperial London Hotels’
events team are on hand to help with catering and planning. 

Regent’s Park: A slightly longer walk from Bloomsbury, but only a short tube journey from Euston Square, Regent’s Park has an expansive green space, with formal gardens and a lovely boating lake. Are you a Disney fan? In 101 Dalmatians, Regent’s Park features as a dog walking destination in the film. For this picnic whether you have Dalmatians joining you or not, you will certainly want to bring your camera! Find a spot near Queen Mary’s Gardens or the Open-Air Theatre for a romantic experience.  

St. James’s Park: Near Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park is another fantastic option. The park’s central lake, resident pelicans, and stunning flower beds provide a dreamy backdrop for your picnic. St James’s Café nearby serves a range of hot meals throughout the day if you wished to add a burger, salad or even pancakes to your outdoor feast. Perhaps you’re celebrating a birthday or engagement? Wash down your lunch with a glass of bubbly or Pimm's! 

london skyline

The view from Primrose Hill. 

Primrose Hill: Get your group together for a picnic with an unforgettable view, only at Primrose Hill.  It’s a bit further out, but the number 1 bus will take you there in no time. This scenery features in many films, including Bridget Jones Edge of Reason and Paddington. Have your own movie moment with views of the unbeatable London skyline whilst perched on a gentle slope of the hill, perfect for lounging with loved ones and having a leisurely meal.  

Primrose Hill is a popular area for breakfast picnics because local bakeries such as Roni’s Bagel Bakery or Chloe’s Espresso open early in the morning for walkers to grab a bite to eat as they walk up towards the viewpoint. Enjoy an egg bagel or freshly baked cinnamon bun with a coffee and start your day with a lovely picnic. 

Where to Buy Picnic Food 
fresh fruit and asparagus

Fresh fruit and asparagus at a market stall.  

The all-important question, where to buy picnic food? There are plenty of ways to prepare a picnic – whether that’s visiting the supermarket to stock up on treats or heading to a deli for a more upmarket hamper.  

See below our local recommendations and hidden gems: 

Waitrose (Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury): Located conveniently in Bloomsbury, this large Waitrose supermarket offers a great selection of pre-made sandwiches, salads, and snacks. Their deli section is perfect for grabbing some cheese, charcuterie, and fresh bread. In their homeware section you can find picnic blankets, cutlery, cups and reuseable cool bags. 

Bloomsbury Farmer’s Market (Bloomsbury): On Thursdays head to the Bloomsbury Farmer’s Market, a popular hangout for locals and students. Whether you’re craving a fruit salad, Sri Lankan vegan curry bowl or British beef burger, a stroll through this market is the place to grab some fresh hot food and then have a nearby picnic in Gordon Square on a Thursday lunchtime. 

two pizzas in open takeaway boxes

Why not grab a pizza to have in the park? 

Blooms Pizza Café (Royal National Hotel, Bloomsbury): Positioned in the lively courtyard at Royal National Hotel, Blooms Pizza Café has all the treats you need for a picnic in the park. Their tasty stone-baked pizzas offer a taste of Italy in the heart of London – whereas their cupcakes, pastries and light bites are the ultimate sweet delights to enjoy with a takeaway coffee or tea. 

La Fromagerie (Bloomsbury): This chic cheese room and restaurant sells ready-to-go cheese boards and gift boxes that can elevate your picnic. Choose from some mouth-watering French cheeses, cured meats and preserves to add to your hamper. 

Marks & Spencer (Tottenham Court Road and other locations): Visit Marks & Spencer, also known as M&S, for a reliable choice of quality picnic food. M&S has a wide range of ready-to-eat options, from salads and sandwiches to fruits and desserts. Their picnic range often includes seasonal treats to share around on a sunny day out.  

If you prefer savoury flavours, then their Green Goddess Dip and cured meat tapas platter are sure to keep your taste buds happy. Their mini tiramisus, mini lemon drizzle and Eton mess yumnuts are also popular choices for those with a sweet tooth. 

Planet Organic (Torrington Place): Offering organic and health-conscious options, Planet Organic is worth a visit. They offer a variety of fresh salads, wraps, and healthy snacks. Don’t forget to check out their fresh juice and smoothie bar which can quench your thirst on a hot day! 

Gail’s Bakery (Various locations): This artisanal bakery chain is a not-so-hidden London gem. Pick up freshly baked bread, pastries, and a selection of savoury items such as a salmon bagel or cheese twist. Their quiches and sandwiches are particularly picnic friendly and can be wrapped up to takeaway. 

Borough Market (London Bridge): If you’re happy to venture further, Borough Market near London Bridge is a food lover’s paradise. You’ll find an array of gourmet cheeses, cured meats, fresh produce, and bowls of hearty pasta. Visit Borough Market to create a bespoke picnic spread that you will remember forever. 

romantic picnic with wine and cheese

Opt for a bespoke hamper if planning a romantic picnic. 

Fortnum & Mason (Piccadilly): For a truly indulgent picnic, visit Fortnum & Mason. Their famous food hall offers an incredible selection of picnic hampers, pastries, and gourmet treats. Try their orange and champagne marmalade, organic smoked salmon or decadent cheese straws for a luxurious lunch. It’s a bit of a splurge, but it can make your picnic feel extra special.  

 strawberries on a picnic blanket

Strawberries, a seasonal summer fruit in the U.K. 

What goes into a Traditional British Picnic? 

Save this helpful list when out shopping for your picnic: 

1) Sandwiches: Egg and cress, cucumber, ham and mustard, and coronation chicken are popular fillings for sandwiches - made with brown or white bread. 

2) Scotch Eggs: These quintessential hard-boiled eggs are wrapped in sausage meat and coated in breadcrumbs. Most supermarkets sell them in packs of two. 

3) Pork Pies: Try these small, savoury pies filled with seasoned pork. 

4) Sausage Rolls: Or indulge in sausage meat often seasoned with pepper and wrapped in flaky pastry. Sausage rolls can be enjoyed hot or cold. 

5) Cheese and Crackers: A selection of British cheeses like Cheddar, Stilton, and Red Leicester pair well with crackers (flat dry biscuits).  

6) Ploughman’s Platter: Crusty bread, a selection of cheese, pickles, chutney and cold meats (often ham) make up Ploughman’s lunch. We recommend selecting the Ploughman’s Pot from M&S which can be mixed and matched with other pots such as sundried tomatoes and olives, as part of their deli tapas deal, it’s a chance to try new flavours! 

7) Quiche: Although a quiche is considered French cuisine, many British people love to eat Quiche Lorraine which is a tart filled with savoury custard, bacon and cheese. This can be enjoyed hot or cold and pairs well with salad or coleslaw. 

8) Pickled Onions and Gherkins: These are tangy accompaniments, often in jars and are delicious with cheese.  

9) Fresh Fruit: Tuck into some tasty fruit such as strawberries, grapes, and apples. During Wimbledon season it is popular to watch tennis with a bowl of juicy strawberries and cream.  

10) Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam: Another sweet treat you can try are baked scones served with cream and jam. This Cornish delicacy is especially scrumptious with a cup of tea. Have you heard of the Great British Scone debate? Do you put cream on the scone first and then jam? Or jam then cream? It’s a divisive topic! 

11) Victoria Sponge Cake: A light sponge cake filled with jam and cream, this is a British classic and essential for your picnic.  

12) Pimm's: An alcoholic British summer drink often enjoyed outside, this fruity and tangy refreshment accompanies all the flavours in a British picnic.  

13) Cloudy Lemonade: A soft drink option for a warm day, cloudy lemonade made from squeezed lemons and is available fizzy or still. 

kitchenette with brown cupboards and a window

A kitchenette at Morton Hotel – ideal for preparing your picnic food whilst staying near Russell Square. 

Conveniently prepare your own picnic at Morton Hotel thanks to the kitchenettes in the Charleston and Omega suites. Stock up the fridge with an array of ingredients and snacks ready for your charming British picnic in Bloomsbury. 

picnic blanket on grass in the sunshine
A picnic blanket provides added comfort and a place to lay out your food. 

Picnic Tips and Essentials 

Make your experience more relaxing and comfortable with these essential items: 

Blanket and Cushions: A comfortable blanket is essential for lounging. If you have space, bring along a few cushions for added comfort.  

Sostrene Grene on Tottenham Court Road, just a ten-minute walk from Bloomsbury, is a furniture shop that also sells soft furnishings, craft supplies, gifts and homeware. In the summer months Sostrene Grene sells picnic blankets in an array of pastel shades, guaranteed to add a splash of colour to your photos!  

Next door is also Flying Tiger Copenhagen, have browse through their affordable alfresco décor, lunch boxes, easy-to-carry picnic rugs and cheerfully patterned napkins to make your outdoor dining setup more vibrant. 

Reusable Cutlery and Plates: To minimise waste, bring along reusable cutlery, plates, and cups. They’re better for the environment and add a touch of class to your picnic. Reusable cutlery can be found in local supermarkets or homeware shops.  

Flowers: These are of course optional, but a bunch of flowers can make your picnic look inviting and aesthetically pleasing, which helps create a romantic atmosphere for impressing your loved one with a surprise date in the park. Head to Store Steet where local Bloomsbury florists can bundle up hydrangeas or elegant peonies for you. 

Cool Bag: A small cool bag or insulated tote will help keep your food fresh and drinks cool. The nearby Waitrose at the Brunswick Centre sells an array of cool bags and totes to choose from for your summer picnic in London. 

Sun Protection: Don’t forget your suncream, hats, and sunglasses. It’s a myth that London is always raining and cold! In fact, from May – September it can reach highs of 30 degrees with not a cloud in sight. 

Rubbish Bags: Do the right thing. Leave the park or grassy space as you found it by bringing along some rubbish bags to collect your litter and dispose of it when you see a nearby bin. 

Whether you're a London local or just visiting, picnicking in the city is a delightful way to see more parks and gardens. With convenient food options and plenty of beautiful spots to choose from, you’re all set for a memorable outdoor dining experience. So, grab your blanket, pack your picnic basket, and dig in! 
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