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When it comes to eating outside, it’s all about the vibe | Jay Rayner

As we move into summer, and a restaurant world where alfresco dining will be key, the setting can make a meal memorableOne summer’s day, about a decade ago, I ate lunch in the garden of an ancient Sussex pub blessed with such perfect set design I hated myself for loving it. We sat upon a terrace of ancient slabs, rubbed smooth by centuries of footfall, overlooking a pasture from which rose the trill of children’s laughter. Beyond it, through the trees, a church spire could be glimpsed, piercing the Tory-blue sky, and you could hear the swell of the London Symphony Orchestra seated over on the cricket pitch, playing Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations. I may have made up the bit about the LSO.I cannot recall anything about the food I ate that day at what was then Moonrakers in Alfriston, at least not without checking. (Having looked it seems there was lemon sole, a bit of chicken with salsify and a chocolate parfait to finish. It was a whole delicious table full of middle-class privilege, fashioned from protein and carbs.) I said at the time that, with a setting this perfect, the cooking didn’t have to be glorious. It just needed not to be bad. It wasn’t. I mostly recall feeling like a willing extra in a Richard Curtis movie called Lunch, Actually. (If you Google the review, you’ll see I’ve just quoted myself. So, shoot me. It’s not like I repeated the gag about the location being hardcore porn for Ukip members.) Continue reading…