Winning tip: Therapeutic curry, north Devon
A little hut/cafe appears on the beach in March each year in Woolacombe, north Devon (it’s starting just before Easter this year). Away from the bustle of the main tourist beach, the cafe is on a smaller, calmer Barricane beach, and in the evening it serves Sri Lankan curry – which is hard to come by in Devon. There’s something therapeutic about eating Sri Lankan cuisine, listening to the sound of the waves, seeing the sun go down and watching the impressive swimmers. Curry evenings are determined by the weather and announced on Instagram: @barricanecafe. Bring towels or folding chairs to sit on. Cafe 10am-5pm, curries 5pm-7pm, although curries can sell out.
Seafront pizza and ice-cream, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear
I’m licking my lips just thinking about this place! Grab a takeaway pizza (from £7.95) from award-winning Di Meo’s (daily 10am-8pm) on Whitley Bay seafront then go and sit on the newly refurbished promenade and watch all the happy dogs and their owners playing on the beautiful sandy beach. Then go back to Di Meo’s for an Italian gelato (from £1.95), and walk along the promenade to the lighthouse. Maybe even go for a paddle, or do a spot of rock-pooling.
Haggis and local scallops, Isle of Harris, Hebrides
On the road to Luskentyre is Lorna’s Larder (open daily from noon, closed Sun), a tiny truck parked in a gravel layby by the turn-off to the Golden Road. It’s a welcome spot for a takeaway lunch overlooking the lochs, or it’s a five-minute drive down to the beach. As well as the usual soup and sandwiches, there are some local delicacies on offer. The hand-dived scallops – caught by Lorna’s partner – are an indulgent addition to the menu, and there’s a “Harris Burger” with haggis topping. Flavours of the island pepper this picnic.
North Africa in southside Edinburgh
Picnics supplies don’t get better than the range of big Sudanese wraps at the Nile Valley Cafe (6 Chapel Street, daily 11am-9.30pm), the best of which is a delicious crunchy falafel with salad and their signature spicy peanut sauce. We’ll carry them to the nearby Meadows to shovel down before they go cold. All the wraps are around the £4 mark, and you can grab a soft drink and a baklava to up the picnicky vibes. It’s a family-run business with no website (they don’t need one, as every Edinburgh southsider knows they’re there). I’ve been visiting for more than 16 years and it never fails to hit the spot.
Cafe for Covid walkers, near Bury
Buckhurst Lodgeside (Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm) is a “walk-only” oasis in the Cheesden valley, between the Pennines and the River Irwell, north of Manchester. The pop-up timber cabin opened in the new year to serve the increasing numbers of walkers and cyclists passing by. The lodge itself, now a haven for wildlife, is one of the many remnants of the early industrial period to be discovered in the “forgotten” Cheesden valley. Let’s hope all the newly active people exploring the local countryside keep going after Covid to enjoy the hot and cold drinks, pies and pastries, as well as keeping fit.
Bengaluru to Bollington, Cheshire
Six days a week (10am-3.30pm, closed Tue) the Indian Goat food truck sets up at Bollington recreation ground, close to the Peak District in east Cheshire. In addition to lovely Indian light meals it does a good selection of cakes and drinks, including hot chocolate with cinnamon and marshmallows. There are plenty of benches within the well-kept park, and at the playground and skate park within 50 metres. To work off the calories, the Middlewood Way, a 10-mile walking, cycling, and riding route, overlooks the park and the Macclesfield Canal runs close by. Free parking.
Decadent picnicking, Oxfordshire
The Sun Café and Bar (daily 9am-5pm, 10am-5pm Sunday) in our Oxfordshire village of Wheatley has kept us going through the many lockdowns. It’s a warm Cotswold stone pub, a short walk from picturesque green fields, where you can grab a takeaway coffee, brownie or sausage and bacon bap to keep you going on the dog walk. Take the round walking route past the Spinney up to Shotover country park and back again, stopping for their hot cinnamon sugar-coated mini doughnuts served with a nutty chocolate dipping sauce. A decadent indulgence we are all in need of right now.
Bikers’ hut, Epping Forest
We regularly ride our bikes from the edge of east London into Epping Forest for tea and a famous locally sourced sausage sandwich (£4) at the Original Tea Hut (daily 9am-5pm) near High Beach. For more than 80 years it has been a popular spot for motorbikers, as well as cyclists and walkers. Our favourite lockdown memory is of the sun appearing after a soggy walk through the forest in pouring rain: we queued alongside Grayson Perry, who was in full Lycra, amid leather-clad bikers who were totally unaware of their proximity to a local – who happens to be a national treasure.
Bijou by name only, Hampshire coast
Don’t let the name fool you, the Bijou New Yorker sandwich (£6.50) isn’t small and dainty: it’s layers of salty pastrami and tangy cheese served in a large sweet bun, at the Bijou Coffee House (10am-3pm, closed Mon) in Barton on Sea, a stretch of sand and shingle coast with a few shops. It offers a wide range of sandwiches, rolls, sweet treats, all generous portions, and a strong cup of coffee. You can find a spot on the beach and enjoy views of the Needles off the Isle of Wight, or venture into the New Forest.
Not-too-distant pasty, Cornwall
By far the best Cornish takeaway is the mighty pasty! Now, we’ve tried a few and we think there is nowhere that quite compares to Gear Farm Pasties served from the farm shop (Wed-Sat 10am-2pm) near Mawgan. Gear Farm is a family-run business that also sells fresh organic veg and wonderful brownies and blondies. Pasties come meaty, veggie, cheesy or vegan (order ahead, they get busy). We like to pick a few up before heading on a walk to nearby Tremayne Quay: by the time you’ve walked through the woods to the river the pasties are cool enough to eat and you can relax on the quay overlooking the glorious Helford River.