x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Painting is palatable when served with chocolate fondue

It is hard for a teenager to be high-minded and artistic when her tummy is rumbling.

When Maddy, a friend with an artistic turn of mind, suggested that we put our increasingly rusty brains to good use by doing something creative instead of yet another meet-up where the same topics of conversation are picked and dissected to microscopic bits, I wasn't sure. Anything different from the usual routine never bodes well; venturing into unknown territories usually means nearly sustaining fatal injuries, quarrelling or seriously offending any third parties involved.

Maddy's proposal of lunch at Café Céramique, though, didn't sound too dangerous. Café Céramique is a sweet little place where you can paint ceramic objects and they get fired in a kiln and come out nicely baked and shiny, and of course, you can eat there too. It's quite a nice concept, to be honest, but breakable objects and I have never got along too well.

I also did not wish to be reminded of the party I had had there on my 11th birthday, because someone ended up spilling paint all over himself and ended up crying - although, to be fair, the people at Café Céramique were wonderful about it. Another child broke the piece she was working on and ended up crying, and in the tantrum that followed I smashed my lovely butterfly trinket box to smithereens and I ended up crying, too.

So it was that five years on, I approached the idea of a revisit with some trepidation, but as there was now at least a slightly reduced chance of tears, off we trotted. I made up my mind that my days of making figurines of dollies and fairies look silly were over. I would create a true masterpiece, a veritable work of genius. Raphael, buddy, I thought craftily, your time's over. I would paint a plate, perhaps, maybe a teapot, but whatever it would be, it would be something that would gain pride of place on the table underneath the television in the drawing room. It was high time something arrived to replace a monstrous plate announcing to all and sundry "I celebrated my 11th birthday at Café Céramique!" which Mum believes is ever so cute.

When we all got there, I ordered some nosh and found a small ceramic tray to paint, which was enough to be getting on with. Maddy selected a plate, Tara a mug and Jen a scowling penguin, and we were off. We were provided with the paints and brushes we asked for rather more quickly than the food. It was the latter I was looking forward to, but no matter. We sponged down our pieces and began dabbing on the first layer of paint.

Following this, I summoned our waiter again and asked, ever so politely, where the food was. "Finish painting first, madam," he replied just as politely. "Madam will have food after that?" No, madam couldn't have food after that because madam was starving. I was going to tell him so, but he was gone by the time.

My plan was to make my tray sunset-themed, with fiery crimsons, mandarins and yellows all blending in, with an exquisite floral pattern of "puffy paint" imposed on top. This was easy enough to visualise, but soon I had rather more paint on my hands, arms and shirt than I did on the tray itself.

We may be a bunch of teenagers with artistic minds in our midst, but we were still a bunch of teenagers, so the conversation soon steered to whether we thought this was a good place to come to on a date. First date, definitely not, was the verdict, because splodged with paint isn't the best way to make a great first impression. Later on, perhaps, provided you're better at painting than your date.

After a couple of hours, I can't say I was much of a success where my sunset-themed tray was concerned. The delicate tendrils of light melting into darkness hadn't turned out quite as I had hoped. The scarlets and tangerines and lemony yellows had all run together to make a mess the colour identifiable only as a murky shade of brown. What I had managed, though, was a first-rate turkey crêpe and a massive chocolate fondue with vanilla ice cream.

Maddy's painted ceramic plate was, as expected, absolutely gorgeous; Tara's mug turned out beautifully; and Jen's penguin, while no less scowling, was resplendent in multicoloured livery. Not a piece of broken china in sight.

There was, of course, the slight issue about the giant green patches I left all over the car seats on the way home because I hadn't washed my hands properly, but with any luck, no one will notice and by the time someone does, they'll have forgotten about our for-once uneventful day out at Café Céramique.


Lavanya Malhotra is a 16-year-old student in Dubai