It's a place that stimulates the senses: relaxing ballads play softly in the background; the decor is a warm burnt orange; the aromas of hot food mingle enticingly; and the sporadic clink of silverware and clay reminds you why you're there. Café Céramique is a novelty in the Emirates: it is both a restaurant and a ceramic-painting workshop. You can enjoy a meal, paint an object, or do both. Either option is inviting: the menu offers bagel sandwiches and all-day breakfasts, and the ceramics selection ranges from cartoon characters to plates and pitchers.
When the time comes to start the creative process, it can be a bit nerve-racking for the novice ceramic painter. Still, you don't have to be arty to paint. "Everything can be learned," says May Licera, the manager of the Mall of the Emirates branch. And just in case it can't, staff are trained to provide patrons with tips and techniques. The laid-back atmosphere is certainly encouraging. About a third of the tables are occupied on a weekday afternoon, and everyone looks equally engaged in designing their own masterpiece. The Dubai resident Beverly Little reads the newspaper next to her daughter Emma. "We've been here for two hours," she laughs. "It's very therapeutic." Emma, a recent university graduate, glances up with a smile, then concentrates on perfecting her vase.
The rest of the painters seem to share her enthusiasm. Children coat animal figurines with paint in broad strokes as their parents watch. Adults sponge ornaments with bright colours and carefully detail figurines of men and women in national dress. The mother-daughter duo leaves after another hour and a half. It seems like a place where you could stay all day if you wanted to. "Definitely," Licera enthuses, "It all depends on your mood." Weekdays are usually the quietest times, and weekend nights are when most families come out.
Painted ceramics are left at the cafe for a week to be fired and glazed, then the artist is notified when the creation is ready. Is it worth the wait? Little thinks so: "You feel like you've done something for yourself," she beams. "And when you come back in a week's time, you go, 'Ooh! Did I really do that?'" Café Céramique, 9am-12am, Mall of the Emirates and Town Centre, Jumeirah. Prices from Dh15-Dh350. Call 04 341 0144 for birthday parties in store or at home.