18 September 2017

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017

A couple of years ago I was introduced to the mystique of Dîner en Blanc.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

In a nutshell, Dîner en Blanc is a worldwide event spanning six continents, in which people flash-gather in a public space and set up a temporary, chic dining area. Guests from around the city meet in a variety of designated points, coming together all dressed in white to enjoy gourmet picnic food, wine and the rather magical atmosphere.

This year, we gathered together again.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

The Dîner en Blanc concept began in Paris in 1988 when François Pasquier invited a group of friends to an elegant outdoor dinner at Bois de Boulogne, asking them to dress in white so they could find each other. The event's presence has grown to over 70 cities, with almost 15,000 gathering for the 25th-anniversary event in Paris.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi
Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

With a flurry of WhatsApp organisation, we bought our tickets (they operate quite a restrictive system where alumni have first dibs) and began Operation Diner en Blanc.

Co-ordinating a table, chairs, white tablecloth, napkins, decorations, a delicious menu, umbrellas and a cheeky bottle of wine, we compared outfits and hunted through our wardrobes for something elegant entirely white.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

An exercise in psychology, the reactions from strangers is curiously exhilarating. Whilst walking to the rendezvous point, dressed head to toe in a carefully selected outfit, we get quite frankly curious stares (and that is saying something in London where I've seen men in head to toe neon pink get barely a glance...). Adding to this, the fringe on my knee length dress swished from side to side.

The lengths participants go to is breathtaking; ornate lace sheath dresses, white formal suits, top hats, shawls, mini dresses, incredibly voluptuous feathered hats, teeny fascinators, cricket jumpers - you name it, it was there somewhere. 1000 picnic goers and not a shade darker than cream adorned our outfits.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

The atmosphere in Somerset House courtyard had a gentle hubbub of excited chatter, the sparkle of elegant candelabras and quiet beauty of beautiful flowers. Each table reflected the owners and the effort they had gone to - some with effusive sparkles, some with subtle twisting arrangements, some with feather fairylights they picked up at *ahem* the last moment.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

We simply enjoyed ourselves, each others company and the occasional foray into the crowds of dancing picnickers.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi
Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

Dinner begins with the waving of elegant handkerchiefs and an opening of the picnic feast.

In the midst of the fun we managed the essentials - a salute to missing friends, several thousand selfies and a heck of a lot of giggling (not to mention a fair few travel stories) passed around the table.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi
Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

We flitted between the tables of our fellow diners, listening to the singers, watching the fountains, nibbling our feast and floating the official ballots from our tables.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

Dusk fell into evening, and Someset House lit up beautifully.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

The end of the feast is always signified with giant sparklers and the dancing begins.

Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi
Dîner en Blanc: Somerset House, London 2017 Adventures of a London Kiwi

When you go, these are absolute essentials;
- Layers (I'd recommend thermals) and a coat
- Wet weather gear
- Soft drinks
- A third less food than you are planning to bring
- Comfortable, beautiful shoes
- Brilliant friends & loved ones to party with
- As big a group as you can get invites for

I'm already planning for next year...

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