On Sunday I visited hipster cat heaven at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium located in the depths of Shoreditch on Bethnal Green Road. The café is easily walkable from Liverpool Street, Shoreditch or Bethnal Green; easy to find it has an open glass pane window so passers by can actually see the cats wandering around from outside! Similar to that of a pet shop, when you can see new kittens through the window and everyone peers in with excitement!
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is the UK’s first cat café, based on those first made popular in Japan ten years ago (there is also one in Paris – café les chats) I was very excited to check it out. I booked in March, not finding a suitable available date until November – those cats are in demand *I thought this day would never come!* Having discussed this with many friends some baffled by the notion, others sharing my excitement, I can see both sides but either way it is definitely something to experience!
As we arrived staff explained the rules to everyone in the same session;
- Do not pick up the cats (stroking/petting is fine)
- Do not disturb the cats while they are sleeping
- Do not feed them your food and drink
- No flash photography
- Sessions are 1 hour 30 mins
All of which are pretty basic and reasonable, I don’t recommend giving any cat a latte…
Before entering you are also required to wash your hands, there are additional hand sanitizers laid out on all the tables for all the germophobes, ensuring that you can still play with the cats then clean your own paws before eating! For reassurance, the cats are not allowed in the kitchen so you needn’t worry about finding any cat hairs in your food!
Layout wise, the café is two levels; the first floor has a garden theme; pale blue with lots of stairs built on the wall for the cats to climb, hammocks and white garden chair style seating for customers. The lower level has a vintage vibe, with sofas and arm chairs provided for visitors with added decor such as an antique bookshelf. Unlike everyone else, my aunt and I spent most of our session upstairs which worked in our favour as a lot of the cats got bored downstairs and wondered on up to see us, which meant we had them all to ourselves!
Food is simple and classic. I selected ‘The Kitten’ a platter served on a wooded board compiling of hummus, flat bread, balsamic vinegar and a selection of vegetables (£6). While my aunt chose a ham and cheese bagel, accompanied by side salad and crisps (£5). Nicely presented, we were both satisfied with our meals, most importantly they were quick and easy which meant more time to play with the cats and explore the venue! It really is not the place you would want a long three course meal as you would spend all time eating and no time with the cats! Although I didn’t have one, the emporium has a selection of cakes and scones which looked devine – especially the red velvet! Please note on top of your food bill £5 per person will be added as an entry fee, this is described to cover the cost of the cats (food, insurance etc).
Regarding the treatment of the cats, the staff clearly adore them and are more than happy to tell you what the cats like and stories of their adventures! For example, we found out that most of the cats living in the Emporium are related, there favourite spots to be stroked and their favourite toys – despite having a whole collection of brand new toys, their favourites were a bit of blue ribbon and being dragged around on bubble wrap!
Each cat is soft and well groomed, staff have even left brushes on the side so that you groom them yourselves! Anyone worried about their wellbeing, needn’t be – there probably the most looked after cats in Shoreditch! I don’t think I have ever felt such a soft fur of coat on a bunch of cats!
What does Lady Dinah’s need? MORE CATS. Speaking with staff it seems they plan to get some kittens in! I am sure these will be a hit – especially if they like to play! Although the cats look more than content, I am sure they get bored of all the attention and photographs (what a hard life!) I think some new lively mischievous kittens will liven things up!
I do wonder if the cat café is the start of more Japanese influences- perhaps a bunny café will be hopping up in London sometime soon….
For more info about the cat café visit their website: http://ladydinahs.com/expect-visit/
Have you been to the cat cafe or plan to? What do you think?
I’ve eaten in many places in Europe with cats as company.
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