No matter how hard you try to resist, you face will be pushed up to the window and your hands will be stroking the glass no quicker than you can blink. A few ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahhs’ are bound to slip out too. Yes, it’s not the best look but this is the result of a visit to the first ever cat café in London, better known as Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium.
As you pass the unglamorous, but quirky shops that line Bethnal Green Road in London, you’ll be caught off guard when you spy the indiscreet lilac framed window and sign. As a self confessed cat lover, I knew I had to rein it in, but spying the slinky feline asleep in the window was like showing the red flag to a charging bull. Luckily for me, it seems the charm of Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium works on most. The glass floor to ceiling window drew a fairly steady huddle of adoring faces, or perhaps that was the sleeping kitties.
Getting a reservation for this place is like gold dust. Having only opened earlier in the year, you’ll need to book a few months in advance. Stepping inside you may have to wait a few minutes until the cats are ready for you. However, don’t worry; there are a few aptly themed decorations to entertain you.
The Cat Laws
Despite the wait and the small set up, it’s very chilled and cute inside. At times it feels like the ten or so cats outnumber the guests. You’re welcome to make yourself at home wherever you like. Stick to one seat or simply follow your favourite cat, though you’ll need to play by the rules.
You’ll be briefed by your host before you enter the café, asked to wash your hands and to pay your £5 cover charge. You’ll be asked not to interrupt your feline friends when they’re sleeping or eating. A perfectly reasonable request, don’t you think?
Meet the Kitties
Once inside the cat haven, the door will be firmly closed behind you so that the cats aren’t a risk of escaping. Tabbies jump on the shelving chasing feathered toys. Serial snoozers (cats need at least eighteen hours sleep a day) lay sprawled on the hessian hammock or bundled in a tight ball on the chaise lounge. Well, it is an emporium after all!
Sweet jazz music lingers in the background, matching the vintage mismatched furniture in the basement area. In contrast, the cosy upstairs area has more of a modern feel thanks to the white furniture and artificial grass lined table. As travel lovers, I’d recommend you get comfy in one of the armchairs in the basement as there is a big antique map wall covering. It has a homier vibe and you won’t be distracted by the randoms passing by the window.
Food and drink orders are taken using a fancy tablet. Ensuring a balance with the modern, drinks are served in vintage teacups and saucers, whilst food arrives on beautifully mismatched crockery. The selection of teas on offer are great, but the food is limited to typical café choices; cakes, scones, and bagels. The prices are fair with a cupcake costing just under £3 and a bagel under £5. However, your visit to Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium isn’t about the food (I can’t say it rocked my world).
It’s about the cats. From black slinkies, Loki and Adamska, to fluffy tailed Petra, there’s a cat for every personality. Hosts are on hand to entice them to play, or to tell you the way they like to be stroked. “Oh, this one likes you to really nuzzle in there on his chin” she purred, as though she was the cat woman. Regardless, it worked and bought me a few extra strokes with the fluffy chair hogger.
Whilst Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is cute and certainly very different to your usual café jaunt, I would suggest that you tie in your visit when you’re already down in London. It’s not necessarily something that warrants a special trip. I may be biased and spoilt by my cuddly ginger one, Buddha, but I much prefer my cat snuggles at home. He’s a lot soppier than the ones I met in London. Perhaps for cat lovers who aren’t able to have their own pet, this is an ideal solution.
What do you think? Have you been or is this place on your list? I’d love to hear what you think. Drop me a comment in the box below so we can swap notes. X