Melamine dinnerware is a practical option for al fresco dining for a number of reasons. The material is shatterproof unlike traditional tableware, giving it a robustness that's safe to use for all ages. It's also lighter to carry in picnic rucksacks or in a picnic hamper alongside picnic food.


The designs have come so far that you often don't notice that the bowls and plates aren’t actually ceramic until you pick them up, so you don't need to lower your standards if it's a classy set of tableware you're after.

These materials are washable so the reusable nature makes them a more environmentally friendly choice than single-use disposable paper plates for picnics and parties. We've got a delicious collection of picnic recipes, perfect for catering to all tastes and dietary requirements like easy scotch eggs, easy vegan slaws and courgette frittatas.

Whether you’re looking for elegant outdoor tableware for garden dinner parties, a large picnic set for family barbecues or simply some extra-durable plates and bowls, there are lots of melamine, bamboo and eco-fibre options to choose from. Here are some of our favourites.

Get outside with the perfect picnic and be inspired by our easy summer sharing recipes. For more summery buys, visit our reviews section to find over 500 buyer's guides including the best charcoal barbecues and best pizza ovens.

Best melamine plates and bowls to buy in 2023

Epicurean Lemon Fresh melamine picnic platter, 44cm

Epicurean Lemon Fresh Melamine Picnic Platter, 44cm, Yellow, £23 yellow

This large 44cm platter brings an air of bright, zesty freshness to the centre of a picnic table, textured like the mottled skin of a lemon and finished with a wipeable glaze.

M&S jungle picnic dinner plates, set of four

Eye-catching and nicely patterned without being pastel or super-bright, these jungle picnic plates are a chic outdoor dining option. They're dishwasher-safe and sure to be in constant use in the garden or for picnics. There’s plenty more in the range to match the set, including bowls, tumblers and serving platters; our top pick is the unique deep platter, perfect for piling high with salads or fruit.

Aimone turquoise plate

Due to the all-too-short summer season, we think picnicware is best when it's designed with versatility in mind. This striking turquoise plate comes in large or medium, and can be used as a serving platter in the off-season. Or, invest in more than one and use them as dinner plates.

Available from:
Amara (£28)

Graham & Green pastel melamine bowls, set of six

What better way to eat ice cream all summer long? Whether filled with a sundae, pavlova or summer trifle, these will soon be a picnic must-have. The assorted pastel colours will brighten up every summer gathering this year.

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Available from:
Graham & Green (£55)

Sarah Leask Studio large wildflowers serving tray

Having a garden picnic? This generously sized wildflower tray will save on trips in and out of the house, as it's large enough to be loaded with plates, bowls and party nibbles all at once. Each flower print is hand-painted in watercolour, then scanned digitally to create the design.

Available from:
Not on the High Street (£28)

Lakeland hazy days dinner plates, set of four

Bring sunshine to your table with this bright, bold plate set. The yellow and blue flowers make a vibrant addition to any al fresco feast, and we like the generous 27cm dinner plate size.

Sophie Allport lobster melamine side plate

Sophie Allport has a range of melamine picnicware designs to choose from, including dragonflies, bees and hearts. Our favourite is the lobster print – perfect for a beach picnic. These small side plates are dishwasher-safe and there are matching dinner plates, bowls and even a picnic bag available.

Available from:
Sophie Allport (£9)

Epicurean Rio medallion 26cm melamine plates, set of four

These bold Epicurean Rio melamine plates channel the colours and designs of glazed clay, but come in a shatterproof, dishwasher-friendly form.

Rex London melamine kids' plates

Melamine kids' dinnerware is hard-working and can handle being thrown to the floor by little hands – handy if you're in the weaning phase. Rex London offers a lovely selection of animal-printed kids plates, featuring cute illustrations in a variety of colours and designs.

VonShef 12-piece melamine dinner set

This shatterproof set of melamine dinnerware comes with four plates, bowls and side plates, and has a nicely ridged grey finish. It's a neutral set that works well for relaxed outdoor lunches as well as dressed-up dinners.

Diwata melamine salad plates, set of four

For light bites, these jungle-inspired plates featuring striking palm leaf designs are one way to embrace the exotic from your garden lawn, picnic blanket or kitchen table.

Emilie O'Connor Dugong salad bowl

We love everything about this dishwasher-safe salad bowl, from its quirky design and the handy bamboo chopping board that doubles up as a lid, to the servers that slot into it for convenient storage. A percentage of the profits from every purchase is also donated to support the restoration of coral reefs.

Available from:
iamfy (£25)

Best melamine cups to buy in 2023

ProCook melamine leaf design tumblers, set of four

This simple teal, blue and green botanical design has a satisfying matte finish. They’re chip- and scratch-resistant, so you won't need to worry about smashed glassware in the garden, and they're safe for kids to use.

Available from:
ProCook (£12)

Yvonne Ellen safari picnic tumblers, set of four

Dishwasher-safe, these safari tumblers from Yvonne Ellen are a great combination of style and practicality. Each features a different safari animal illustration in a summer pastel shade.

Available from:
Yvon Ellen (£20)

So'Home Mimo Miami Arch tumblers

Each of these differently coloured melamine tumblers are finished with a dark blue rim which adds a contemporary touch to their simple, durable design. They can also be stacked together for easy transportation.

Are melamine plates safe?

Melamine is a synthetic compound and thermosetting plastic that can be easily moulded into shatterproof utensils and tableware, for example from melamine-formaldehyde resin. This makes them particularly suited to outdoor use over ceramic plates which can break into sharp or small pieces and be swallowed.

According to a 2018 Government Chemist Review, residues of melamine and formaldehyde "may migrate from finished products", but after research conducted under exaggerated temperatures with acidic foods, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded levels of migration to be acceptable in actual-use conditions (in foods other than infant formula). It's not recommended to heat food on melamine tableware in the microwave, even if the label says it's microwave-safe.

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