AS SUMMER is fast approaching, what better way to spend a lazy weekend than having a picnic in one of London's many beautiful parks?
And it's even better when someone else has prepared it for you, and put each dish in special containers to ensure no mud, ants or wasps can ruin your afternoon.
Carluccio's, the Italian chain restaurant, is offering just such an opportunity, with luxury picnic hampers available to collect from your nearest branch simply by ordering 24 hours in advance.
Although they may seem a little pricey - with different selections for two adults available at £45 and £60, or £10 for children - they are well worth the expense. The £45 basket includes a great selection of classic Italian starters.
For antipasti, we tucked into chilli-stuffed olives, sun-blushed tomatoes, balsamic onions, ricotta and speck. To follow this, we had a tuna pasta salad with peppers and capers, and chicken legs wrapped in pancetta.
These came with fresh focaccia and chargrilled vegetables. Careful attention had been paid to the little details. The dishes were packaged in individual plastic containers, ensuring no leaking and no mess.
The picnic selection came in a handy blue coolbag, which can be used time and time again.
We had a bottle of wine, a delicious Sicilian white, which came with a screw-top to avoid those 'forgot the corkscrew' moments.
And we were given plastic knives, forks and paper cups, with lots of napkins - just in case of a spillage.
If anyone was still hungry after this feast, there were two individual lemon cakes and a packet of delicious Carluccio's biscotti, which could be enjoyed long into a warm, summer evening. The £60 basket offers a similar choice, with the addition of a fresh Italian salad, chicken liver pate and toasted Italian bread, lamb cutlets and Gorgonzola cheese.
While tucking into the spread, I remembered picnics when I was younger, which typically involved covering up the food as a swarm of wasps or ants decided to join us or spitting out sandwiches which were covered in sand from beaches. The Carluccio's hamper was a completely different experience - and I would certainly get another one in future for a weekend treat.