Londonist Visits Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium

Since the news broke that, following Japan (and Berlin), London would be getting its own cat café, anticipation has been building. Cat lovers can now finally cross the threshold of Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium over in Hackney.

Despite over 14,000 bookings already registered till the end of July, we managed to grab a slot this week to see what the fuss was all about, and stroke a willing pussy or two.

Adjacent to the reception-cum-kitchen is the small room where we paid our £5 cover charge, washed our hands and were instructed in the four basic rules we would have to follow once let loose on the cats: no flash with your photos, no feeding the cats, no holding/carrying them and leave them alone when they want to sleep.

We were then admitted into the holy of holies. In our excitement to get at the cats, our first instinct was to dump our stuff at one of the large tables cramping the slightly gloomy ground floor room — but further exploration revealed the large basement to be much more welcoming and cosy. The warmer colours and deep sofas proved to be the dog’s proverbial and eventually led to something almost unheard of: conversation breaking out between unacquainted visitors.

The expression ‘herding cats’ rarely seemed more apt than when considering the task facing the staff. They managed to remain very relaxed and friendly when trying to get customers to order food and beverages as we clambered around the room adoring the feline residents.

Eventually refreshments were ordered and delivered but it felt a little odd to be handed a cup of lukewarm water to tip our tea into, rather than a proper tea pot. Thankfully, all of us were much more interested in interacting with the cats, who seemed to be in a playful mood when we arrived.

They didn’t really want to be touched, but were quite happy to play with the many toys on offer. They also seemed strangely oblivious to human noises and calls and most of the time felt like they tolerated interaction rather than really looking for it. Slowly, though, they mellowed down and by the time we left, after a couple of hours, most of them were asleep.

The cats and their wellbeing truly appear to be at the centre of the enterprise. They are the ones setting the agenda, as it should indeed be, but we can imagine that someone turning up during a ‘downtime’ period could feel cheated.

As we walked away with a nagging lack of contentment and cat hair on our trousers, we couldn’t help but wonder if the obvious early success would last beyond the novelty effect.

Will a dog cafe be hot on Lady Dinah’s heels?

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, 152-154 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 6DG. Opening hours are 11am-11pm, 7 days a week, with a cat-nap between 3.45pm and 4.15pm. Booking (via the website) required.

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  • https://soundcloud.com/inhead-kay/ Kay

    I’ve been to a cat cafe in Vienna – was a big hit at the time then wore out and became actually enjoyable since you can now just walk in like any other cafe and chill out. Also the rules were relaxed, no one minds you picking up a pussy or two (sorry). Given London’s size – it might take a while for the fad to wither down and then the place becomes approachable I guess.

  • http://www.thisbigcity.net/ Joe Peach

    It’s not in Hackney. It’s in Bethnal Green, this part of which is in Tower Hamlets.

    • Lydia Anne Brandon

      I used to live where Shoreditch met Bethnal Green – but was in the borough of Hackney. Hackney rd. Can be done…

      • http://www.thisbigcity.net/ Joe Peach

        It definitely can be done! But this cafe is not at the location you describe. My real concern in all of this is that some poor souls will go to Hackney Central, ask where the cat cafe is, realise they are about 2 miles away and then break down in tears at the injustice of it all.

  • James Guppy

    Room 101 in a sack as far as I’m concerned. Next!

  • Marianne

    Let’s be honest… whilst your knowledge of London boroughs is second to none, Lady D’s is still pretty damn close to Hackney #awks

  • Nicolas Chinardet

    Apologies for the wrong location… I’m a sarf Londoner, this is foreign land for me ;)
    Here is a link to more pictures of the café to help you forgive me http://www.flickr.com/photos/zefrog/sets/72157642209400063/