CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Surrey Life's resident celebrity chef Tony Tobin on the secret of a successful picnic

PUBLISHED: 13:29 10 January 2011 | UPDATED: 17:45 20 February 2013

Surrey Life's resident celebrity chef Tony Tobin on the secret of a successful picnic

Surrey Life's resident celebrity chef Tony Tobin on the secret of a successful picnic

Our chef Tony Tobin on the secret of a successful picnic. PLUS: his recipe for the perfect Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Picnic Sandwich

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2010


Our celeb chef Tony Tobin on the secret of a successful picnic



I read a scathing article recently about the death of family conversation. The killer in this modern crime was identified, tried and sentenced all within a few paragraphs. It was not education, it was not yoof hormones, it was that chefs nemesis, the dreaded TV dinner.


A well-known gravy maker even made an advertising campaign based on this observation a few years back, and set about persuading fathers to sign a pledge that at least once a week they would sit down with their families and chat and have a meal (with gravy, funnily enough).


The scene of this crime is the living room but the real villain of the piece is the Idiots Lantern in the corner that creates a conversation vacuum that sucks speech and interaction out of people and directs our eyes away from each other and towards the goggle box.


As a chef, theres an interesting factor here and that is the importance of the table as the facilitator of conversation.


Furthermore, I believe that to eat socially, we must eat in the round. Dining in lines simply doesnt work and many a glamorous do has been spoiled for its attendees in this way.


The worst thing is, when you get bracketed on either side with a bore who wants to tell you about the number of followers on his Twitter feed or his own unique way of avoiding the roadworks on the A264. You cant escape but you know that just three people to your left, others are laughing and smiling as Catherine Zeta Jones or George Clooney recount glamorous and witty anecdotes.


This is why so many food brands go for images of quasi-Italian or Spanish family meals where dishes are passed hand-to-hand across and around the table while everyone talks to anyone and usually across them, too.


So, what does all this have to do with August? You might well ask because during August Im normally rabbiting on about barbecue sauces and marinades. Well, my point is this the most people-friendly of all repasts doesnt even need a table. It needs a blanket, a basket, sunshine and preferably a cool bag for the white wine.


The English picnic
Even more than Italian dinners and Spanish lunches, English picnics are the ultimate sociable meal. On a picnic, between courses you can lay down and have a snooze or chase children or throw frisbees or climb trees. You can chat, dangle infants on your knee or dig about in the basket for another corkscrew because the kids are off whittling with the first one. And, best of all, theres not a television in sight.


The downside of picnics and it is not very down at all is the amount of preparation required. Yes, pink champagne can be chucked into the cool bag with blocks of cheese, fruit, olives and cold meats but if youll permit a Tobin tip, the best picnic fodder in the universe is a tomato, mozzarella and basil picnic sandwich.


Were not talking about two slices of bread here; we are talking about a
loaf and the method is a little like that you would use when packing a
suitcase for your holiday. In short, you keep adding stuff in at the top and pressing down until you have to sit on the case to close it.


The resulting gastronomic delight is one that Ive taken with me to the Reigate music festival for years with consistent success. When you pull this beauty out of the basket and cut a slice for everyone, its like serving a savoury fruit cake moist, dense, delicious and filling. You may never eat a triangle of cucumber sandwich again!



  • Tony Tobin is head chef at The Dining Room in Reigate (01737 226650).

More from Surrey Life

14:51

The spookiest time of the year is fast approaching! We pick some of the best events to celebrate Halloween in Surrey

Read more
14:43

This edition of Surrey Life features all the local ingredients to make this month special

Read more
12:43

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (26, 27 and 28 October): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Friday, October 19, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Thursday, October 18, 2018

To mark the appointment of Peter Estlin, a former head boy at King Edward’s Witley, as new Lord Mayor of the City of London, Surrey Life has joined forces with the 400-pupil school to give away two tickets to the Lord Mayor’s Show on 10 November plus an overnight stay in London

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

With The Great British Bake Off back on our screens the nation is falling in love with baking once again. Head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park, Sarah Frankland, tells us about what it takes to make it as a professional

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wrap up in your favourite coat and scarf, grab your sparklers and a warming drink, and enjoy one of these fantastic firework displays taking place in Surrey for bonfire night

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Home to outstanding architecture, ambitious community projects and arts ventures that are putting these villages firmly on the map, East and West Horsley are among our county’s most desirable addresses

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Chertsey’s best-kept secret, the Great Cockcrow Railway, steamed into a half-century this year

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A taste of Korea has swept into the beautiful market town of Godalming as Bada sets out its stall with a tapas-style fusion of seafood, traditional dishes and spice

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

With friendship as the central theme in Adele Parks’ new book, Zoe Richards met up with the bestselling author and her publisher, Kate Mills, to find out how these two Surrey dwellers have discovered a successful working relationship, and become firm friends too

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

As the twilight falls, the magic begins… There’s something for everyone at Christmas at Kew – and we’re giving you the chance to win one of five family tickets for two adults and two children to the Preview Night of Christmas at Kew on Wednesday 21 November 2018

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Good table manners have long been a source of national pride but in this modern age of social media are our longstanding traditions being left behind? Rebecca Younger visits the stately Beaverbrook estate for a lesson in British etiquette

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search