St Anne’s head chef Ben Gibbons, desperate to get back to work, has come up with an ingenious plan to keep his kitchens busy over the summer by introducing a new venture – picnics.
And what a brilliant idea it is. Eager to try one, we picked ours up on Friday and having planned a much-needed half day, it was the perfect start to the weekend and an absolute treat.
And what a treat it was. Inspector Morsel has enjoyed some rather fancy packed lunches in his time but the St Anne’s picnic offering took it to a whole new level and became a bit of a lunch date.
The mini banquet was presented in a lovely ribboned box which made it all the more special and easy to carry while the delicious contents stayed cool, fresh, flat and unshaken on our journey to the perfect picnic spot.
There are two varieties of picnic available designed for two people to share:
The standard hamper starting from £18 consists of, a ham and wholegrain mustard baguette, an Oxford blue cheese and pickle baguette, crisps, local strawberries and the famous Barefoot Oxford Brownie.
The premium hamper starting from £29 consists of, Mortadella and salsa verde, crayfish mayonnaise, duck egg and watercress sourdough baguettes, crisps, houmous dip, local strawberries, scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam.
Knowing how hungry Inspector Morsel can get we went for the premium option, but would it be enough? When the lid was opened and the beautifully packaged contents revealed, it was clear that we would not be left hungry.
Delicious sandwiches brimming with fresh fillings were accompanied by home made humous, crisps and a cheeky glass of white wine. We then enjoyed enormous scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam and the sweetest, juiciest strawberries.
Inspector Morsel appeared more than satisfied and patting his stomach announced: “I think the hardy perennials might have to wait…I am rather full.” He was later found having a post picnic nap in the hammock.
The hampers have a choice of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks for you to choose from such as, Luscombe lemonade, Belvoir elderflower presse, Sauvignon blanc, Shiraz and Corte Alta Prosecco to name a few.
The picnics are packed into a reusable keepsake box with ribbon handles which makes it easy to transport and nice to look at. The packaging of all of the food and drink inside the box are all easily recycled or compostable.
So Ben’s picnic plan is clearly a resounding success and yet an unusual sideline for a busy head chef used to catering on a much larger scale.
Ben explained: “Rather than having a large industrial kitchen sitting almost empty whilst we wait for the return of our resident students and the national and international conferences we host here, we’ve been thinking of ways to utilise it and to give our staff some relief from furlough.”
“The picnics are really versatile because they are mobile but most importantly they can be enjoyed outdoors in the luxury of plenty of open space with the security that you’re with people you know.”
“Our catering team is full of very passionate chefs and attentive front of house staff who are all eager to be able to do what they enjoy and get back to normality. Working from home is not something that these jobs lend to so it’s of no surprise that after so long at home we’re all keen to get back to it.”
The picnic hampers are ideal if you’re planning a trip away outside of Oxford or if you want to enjoy some of Oxford’s outdoor spaces such as the nearby University Park or Port Meadow, both of which are conveniently located just next to St Annes College. They are also great if you feel like an easy meal at home in the garden.
The picnics can be ordered online via the St Anne’s College website, see the link below, where you will be navigated to the Oxford University online shop to choose your hamper, drinks package, collection time slot and be able to inform the team of any dietary requirements.
The picnics are then ready for collection between 12pm and 2pm Monday to Sunday each week. Picnics can be ordered up to one week in advance, there is a cut off time of 11am the day before collection for last minute orders.
The collection point is the kitchen door at 48 Woodstock Road, so no need to enter the grounds of the College. The door is signed @st_annes_kitchen
Orders can be placed at www.st-annes.ox.ac.uk
Sarah Edwards and Katherine MacAlister