It was dubbed little more than a ‘posh picnic’ for food snobs, but le Diner en Blanc quickly became the city’s hottest event last weekend—even if the temperature left participants reaching for their winter woollies.
Emerging out of Paris, the Diner en Blanc concept asks diners—dressed entirely in white—to bring a picnic basket of food, fine china and a white table and chairs to a rallying location, without knowing the final destination.
It’s like the flash mob of dinner parties. A complete pop-up picnic.
While Saturday night’s event was the first of its kind in Australia, the original le Diner on Blanc was hosted by Frenchman François Pasquier in Paris in 1988.
To deal with a mounting guest list, he asked attendees to convene at the Bois de Boulogne dressed in white so they could all find each other.
François’ dinner has since become a worldwide phenomenon with almost 15,000 white-clad guests meeting annually in Paris and tens of thousands on a waiting list hoping to get a sought-after ticket.
Brisbane’s event—which had 1000 seats available—sold out in 20 minutes with 6800 on the waiting list.
A bonus of securing a ticket is that attendees automatically become members of the Dîner en Blanc network, are reinvited year after year and have the possibility to attend other Dîner en Blanc soirees across the globe.
The allure of le Dîner en Blanc transcends differences in culture. In cities across the world, people regardless of who they are and where they are, embrace the fundamental value of wanting to share a meal with friends, be a part of a wider community and appreciate the beauty that exists in their own backyards. The magical nature of the event will continue to captivate people wherever it goes. – www.frenchlivingmag.com.au –
On Saturday night, with months of waiting finally over, attendees converged on meeting spots across the city (Carindale, South Brisbane, Chermside, Indooroopilly and New Farm Park) carrying tables, chairs, decorations, crockery, glassware and, of course, picnic baskets filled with food.
As dusk settled over Brisbane, there was an excitement in the air; a buzz of anticipation that we were all about to be part of something just a little bit magical.
Our ‘walking’ group met outside the Queensland Museum at South Brisbane and as my friend Reshni and I set our picnic baskets down we found a few familiar faces from years gone by. The event hadn’t even started and already it was bringing people together.
As the clock struck 6pm, the location was unveiled—the riverside forecourt of the Queensland Performing Arts Complex (QPAC) with the iconic Brisbane Wheel as our backdrop and the river and the city in front of us. Views in Brisbane don’t get much better.
People stopped and stared as weaved our way through the grounds of QPAC; a long line of white flowing through the colourful outfits of those not in the know.
As we set up our tables two-by-two in long rows, white balloons and lanterns bobbed around in the breeze.
Those who had ordered hire furniture, like myself, were able to pick it up on site which was a much easier option than carrying it across the city, especially in heels.
Paddington’s Clovely Estate Winery and Dalton’s Hospitality were on hand to distribute wine, champagne and gourmet picnic hampers which had been pre-ordered. (There was no alcohol or food available for purchase at the event and due to strict liquor licensing rules, there was no BYO.)
As the rows filled behind us, the signal was given for the dinner to start and everyone simultaneously waved their napkins in the air. Bon appétit!
Cheese platters, strawberries and quiches of every variety seemed to be popular choices and, unsurprisingly, not many opted for beetroot!
Reshni and I put our culinary skills to the test and shared a picnic basket filled with cheese and dips, bacon and leek quiche with a side salad and chocolate-dipped strawberries. We also ordered a bottle of champagne to wash it all down.
Candles seemed a popular choice for table decoration and as the temperature continued to drop, hands lingered above the flame as even the smallest amount of heat was a welcome relief.
To mark the end of the meal—and the start of the dancing—volunteers handed out 1000 sparklers and the night sky was soon alight with a warm glow.
It would have been hard not to be caught up in the beauty of the moment. Hundreds of people lined the verandas at QPAC watching, no doubt reminding themselves to register for next year’s event.
And after much dancing and frivolity, the sound of another horn marked that it was time to pack up and disappear into the night, with just the sounds of laughter and singing floating in the air.
It was like we had never been there.
I can honestly say that despite the strict guidelines over dress and decorations, which I know frustrated some of the guys, and the cold temperature, le Dîner en Blanc was everything I hoped it would be. It was a spectacular night filled with beauty and laughter with some great friends.
Anyone who missed out on tickets this year should register on next year’s waiting list on http://brisbane.dinerenblanc.info/
Le Dîner en Blanc is a not-for-profit event run by volunteers. Tickets were $30 per person with funds raised used to pay for amenities and entertainment at the event.