Now, if you are like me, and have any interest in Japan, or Japanese culture, then there is a very good chance you would have heard of Cat Cafes. Places where cat lovers can relax with a coffee and a cake – and a cafe full of cats at your petting disposal. Yes. A cafe where you can literally pay money to pet cats. Sounds like utter bliss for us mad cat people doesn’t it?
So I was, as a result, extremely pleased to find out that such a cafe actually exists in London. Yup. You read that right. The UK now boasts it’s very own Cat Cafe.
Located in Shoreditch, East London, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is admittedly a rather surreal sight in the middle of busy, chaotic London.
Admittedly my first taste of Shoreditch was not the best one. Within minutes of leaving the station I basically ended up by followed down the street by a guy who called out to me, and then started shouting and trailing after me as I made my way down the street. Not exactly sure why – he may have been begging, or he could have been trying to deal something – but in any case, as a 5’3 woman walking alone, this was not exactly the most reassuring experience of my life, and after a few unsettling minutes of being followed I did end up pretty much running down the street. Not exactly the greatest start to my trip.
While this may be common occurrence for seasoned Londoners, I will openly admit that I am still getting used to the city, and experiences like this do tend to unnerve me somewhat.
Needless to say I was (very) relieved to arrive at the cafe. There was no missing it once I reached it. Especially given the small crowd that was gathered around its large front window. It wasn’t hard to see what was attracting all the attention. There, on top of a grassy replica hill, sat a handsome black cat joined by a gorgeous ginger tabby, gazing nonchalantly through the glass at their admirers.
I think it’s pretty safe that I’ve been never been greeted by quite such an unusual and captivating sight when arriving at a cafe before, and the novelty was obviously not something lost on the locals, giving the simply delighted reactions of the people admiring the scene in the window. It was simply impossible to look at without smiling. I was incredibly excited before arriving, and was positively giddy as I entered the cafe and anxiously waited to be ushered through by the staff.
At this point it is probably quite important to explain how the booking system works at Lady Dinah’s. First off, booking on their website is essential. You will not get a space if you do not book well in advance. I can ensure you of this. I booked mine about a month in advance. While waiting for my session a young woman came in for a chance booking and left disappointed – there was simply no spaces available that day. Book ahead to avoid the same fate.
The general admission carries a £12 charge, which covers your admission, and admits you to the cafe for an hours time slot. The cafe also carries a High Tea Booking option – cakes, tea, and sandwiches included, which will take you back a whopping £36. Wow. Not exactly within my budget.
It is also worth noting that children under 12 will not be admitted to the cafe, so if you were hoping to bring young children to the cafe, this is unfortunately a no-go. Sorry.
Before we were able to enter the main cafe where the cats were, we were taken to a small room where we were given a brief but clear rundown of the rules we must follow as visitors to the cafe.
- Hand’s must be thoroughly washed before entering the cafe.
- No flash photography.
- Cat’s must not be fed or picked up.
- Cat’s must not be petted or disturbed when sleeping.
One thing that must be said about Lady Dinah’s is that they hold a very high standard for the cat’s welfare; the wellbeing and happiness of their cat’s is in fact their highest priority, and the cafe prides itself on promoting responsible cat care and ownership.
Once we had all diligently washed our hands, this was it; it was finally time to go and meet the cats!
After being shown to my table and given a menu, I certainly didn’t waste any time acquainting myself with the cats.
Lady Dinah had 8 cat’s at the time of my visit – 9 at this current point in time. It is worth pointing out that all of Lady Dinah’s cats are re-homed from shelters, or occasionally taken in by the cafe after having been abandoned (their newest arrival having literally been left on their doorstep). The cat’s only ‘work’ a few days a week, and different cats are out on different days.
On my particular visit I was lucky enough to become acquainted with Mue (or ‘Mother Mue’ as she is affectionately called by staff), Petra, Carbonelle, Alice, and Artemis – who spent the entirety of my visit curled up asleep on a shelf above my head.
The staff were all very knowledgeable about the different cats and all their little quirks and personalities, and were very happy to answer any questions we had about the cats. The staff obviously felt real affection for the cats they worked with, and it was really lovely to see.
They brought out toys and encouraged us to play with the cats, but having little experience with cats, and my one attempt to ‘play’ with a cat resulting in a rather bored, unimpressed stare, I instead opted to simply wander about the cafe stroking the different cats.
While the cats were all adorable I’ve got to admit though that my hands down favorite had to be Carbonelle. A gorgeous, impossibly fluffy black and white cat, she spent most of the time crouched by the window, intently watching the pigeons who were pottering about outside the cafe. I in turn, spent most of my time knelt next to her stroking her.
There is something so incredibly soothing and therapeutic about simply sitting and stroking a cat, and as a non-cat owner, it was wonderful to have a chance to just sit down and indulge in this. Lady Dinah’s really is a place where you can just stop and wind down for a little while.
While my table was on the first floor, the cafe also had a basement floor, with customers being free to wander between floors and explore the different parts of the cafe. The basement floor was cosily kitted out with sofas, a book case, and a number of different cats toys, including a cat-sized hamster-wheel, and even a little fire engine, which was adorable.
The food at Lady Dinah’s is also worth a mention. I ordered a banana muffin and an orange hot chocolate – adorably decorated with a little cocoa powder cat face – which were a little pricey but very delicious. The cafe offers a very decent selection of cakes and sandwiches, and many of the hot drinks are named after and ‘inspired by’ the cafe’s different cats, which is a sweet touch.
The menu also carries vegetarian and vegan options, and also has some options for customers with special dietary needs (such as gluten intolerance).
The cafe’s gift shop is also certainly not to be missed. Selling a wide selection of gifts from postcards and badges, to hoodies and other goods, it is a very good way to round off your visit. I brought myself a large tote bag (which has proved very handy since), and my eye was also caught by a very nice Lady Dinah’s calendar, which seemed expensive at the time but part of me now sort of regrets not buying.
When my booking came to an end, and it was finally time for me to leave the cafe, I felt quite sad to go, but left feeling more relaxed and contented than I have ever felt when leaving a cafe before. Visiting Lady Dinah’s was one of the most calming, soothing experiences of my life, and I definitely plan to visit again in the future.
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is located at 152-154 Bethnal Green, and is about a 15-20 minute walk from Liverpool Street Tube Station.
You can book your visit or find out more on their website here: https://ladydinahs.com
If you enjoyed this post then you may enjoy it’s follow up: Return to Lady Dinah’s – London’s Own Cat Cafe