I've heard a lot about cat cafés - tea houses that boast their own colony of resident felines - and I never really expected to visit one myself. However, my best friend Tom came down to London to pay me a visit and I thought it would be a fun daytime activity that he'd really enjoy. After a brief googling spree I came across Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium situated on Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch. The website suggested that it was a small and cosy venue with a sustainable number of cat occupants and a relatively affordable cover charge of £6.00 per person. Surprisingly it's quite tricky to make a booking, as Lady Dinah's seems to be a really popular destination. However, I was quite lucky (as I think someone had made a cancellation) and managed to book an early morning slot, but I would definitely recommend booking a place well in advance.
Tom and I arrived at Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium and where we were greeted by really friendly and enthusiastic staff. We were told the "house rules" which outlined how we were meant to interact with the animals (basically to treat them with the same respect as you would your own pets, and don't pick them up) and we washed our hands in a specially designed vestibule between the café and the tearooms situated next door. After we'd been prepped we walked through the upstairs tea room before descending a flight of stairs into a larger basement room where our booked table was situated.
The seating arrangements at Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium are basic but comfortable, and the cats seemed to roam around more freely downstairs than they did upstairs. In fact, on our arrival we were immediately greeted by one of the younger cats who jumped straight onto our table in readiness to be fussed over by Tom (who was all too happy to oblige). After this encounter we decided to wander about the space - which is really encouraged - so that we could interact with more of the cats. I have to admit that they weren't necessarily as cuddly as I'd hoped that they would be, but some of the cats were very interested in attracting our attention and were all quite happy to play if you engaged them. In total there are twelve cats in residence at Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium, and they moved between the two floors of the café throughout the hour and a half that we were there.
The ground floor tea room (shown above) was much lighter thanks to its large street-facing window, and quite a few of the cats used this space to take a snooze. Although I preferred the ambiance of the upstairs area, I did feel as though I had more fun and got more opportunities to interact with the cats on the lower floor. However, it doesn't really matter where you're sat as you can move around the café throughout your visit, but any food or drink that you order will be brought to your assigned table. Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium features table service (which I thought was a lovely touch) and all the staff were very friendly and obliging. What was particularly nice was that the staff's primary job seemed to be to look after the cats, they knew their quirks inside out and all seemed to have a genuine affinity with them. As a result, I felt as though I was able to get a better insight into the individual personalities of each of the cats, which made the experience more enjoyable overall. If you're a cat lover who's denied the opportunity of owning their own pet, then Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium offers you the chance to really enjoy the company of the animals. I could definitely understand why there might be a lot of repeat visitors!
Lastly, although there is a cover charge to make a reservation, I felt that our visit to Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium represented quite good value for money. With each booking covering a period of 90 minutes, you're given the opportunity to really make the most of your visit. Tom and I shared two pots of tea (both of which were really nice and reasonably priced) as well as a piece of cake (equally good, although perhaps a tad sweet). I think our total spend on the day was roughly £12.00, in addition to the £12.00 that we'd spent on booking the table - I wouldn't say that it's a "cheap" place to visit, but Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium is a fun and unusual destination and when we left we both agreed that we'd like to return again in the future.
Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium gets a big thumbs up from me. Thanks to the friendly and approachable staff, I really enjoyed our visit and I'd definitely recommend the experience. You can find out more about the venue on their website here. Have you visited a cat café before? If not, would you like to?