x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Teen Life: a dining experience beyond our years at Burj Al Arab

Recently a few of us decided to pool in for a dinner at that seven-star yacht shaped epitome of luxury, the Burj Al Arab.

You are unlikely to hear the words "teenager" and "sophisticated" mentioned in the same sentence. There are some words that don't go together, like "nice" and "Simon Cowell". Stick teenagers in a posh restaurant and they are more likely to knock over the candle stand on the table and set the place on fire than make civil conversation and keep their elbows off the table.

Nevertheless, recently a few of us decided to pool in for a dinner at that seven-star yacht shaped epitome of luxury, the Burj Al Arab. I had never been there before, because no one had previously, understandably, expressed a desire to treat me to a meal at one of the most expensive places in the world. Living in Dubai for years, the Burj has seemed a far-off dreamworld, a symbol of lavish extravagance, a gleaming structure separated from the commoners by the Arabian Gulf, and wealth.

We picked an exotic-sounding restaurant, a far-eastern place called Junsui. You tend to feel pretty smug driving along the bridge that connects the Burj to the mainland, sharing roadspace with presumably the rich and hopefully the famous. The interior of the Burj, meanwhile, is frighteningly intimidating. Everything's an eye-watering shade of gold, giving the impression of being in Aladdin's cave, but with everyone in Jimmy Choos. At the entrance of Junsui, a Carla Bruni lookalike checked our reservations - we were in!

Part of the charm of the hotel is that everything exudes an aura of opulence, so you feel you're getting your money's worth. The waiters ooze charm but manage to carry off a detached snootiness at the same time. And everything's quiet - deathly quiet. Fellow diners talk in hushed voices, not wanting to disturb the stately grandeur of the air molecules. Teenagers are rather less restrained - we scoffed an indecent amount of prawn sushi from the buffet-like counters before realising that they were just starters. The prawn sushi, by the way, was the best thing I'd tasted in my life. I ate 14 pieces - who says I don't recognise class?

My friend Maria was following a similar path until she spotted a particularly snooty waiter whom she fell head over heels in love with and decided to exercisesome restraint. "Oh," she laughed coquettishly, when the waiter flitted by our table, "so did I tell you about how I'm meeting up with the Queen of England soon? I mean, it's her diamond jubilee, she wanted to invite all of William and Harry's friends, of course...." I was reminded irresistibly of Elisa in Pygmalion, a poor, flower girl who orders a taxi driver to drive her to "Bucknam Pellis" when a handsome man is in the vicinity.

As we drove away, I mulled a little on the ups and downs of life, social class and prawn sushi. It really had been delicious. Not a bad hang-out, the Burj. I could get used to this.