Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Lunch at Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

On Sunday I headed over to Shoreditch to try the much anticipated Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium. I first became aware of London's first cafe probably about a year ago when it first started making news in its crowdfunding attempts, and I was really eager to try the cafe out to see what it was all about. I'm not a big cat fan, I much prefer dogs, but I still liked the idea of having a little furry friend in my lap whilst I enjoyed some sandwiches so I was curious to see what it would be like.

From outside, first impressions were pretty good. I love Shoreditch but not so much the particular area the cafe was in, but I enjoyed looking in and seeing a few cats sleeping in the window. We entered, and opinions went down a little bit. It seems that the first bit when you walk in is a food preparation area, but they just told us to wait there a moment, so we all awkwardly waited in silence for about five minutes waiting to find out what they wanted us to do. Impressions went down a little here as it was an odd atmosphere and the area just wasn't that pleasant to be in - it was like it was a much older, cheaper cafe, not one that has only been open for a couple of months and one where you have to pay to enter! We then went through into a small area where we washed our hands and were told the rules about the cats, and then we were allowed to go through.

There are two public areas of the cafe. The ground floor is much more like a regular cheap cafe, the main difference being not so much the cats but the fact that you get to discover what it feels like to be in the zoo as all sorts of people crowd around outside the window and stare in at you and the cats and try to take their photos. The downstairs area is much nicer, but we weren't able to stay there as there were no spaces. This was another part of the problem - I can see why they've done it this way, but they don't reserve seating or tables or anything despite it being a requirement to book. This would be fine, but we were a group of eight that ended up a bit scattered about, and it would have been much nicer for us to just have a table or an area. The areas were nicely designed though, with lots of cat hidey holes and toys.

The food was...okay. I thought it was pretty expensive for what it was - you're looking at £2.80 for a cupcake, and my hot chocolate with a vegan tart ended up costing £9 which was sort of ridiculous considering how average it all was. The menu isn't at all extensive and none of it really appealed to me. They had a good selection of cakes, but as I'd already had cake that morning I wanted something savoury and there really wasn't much available. Service wasn't the friendliest either. One of the people in my group got snapped at for something she asked, which made for a very awkward atmosphere afterwards. None of the staff members seemed happy. And there was a staff member in each room who basically just observed you the entire time. I particularly remember towards the end when we found a playful cat, the entire time we were playing with it this staff member stood nearby with a very fed up expression and just stared at us. It was sort of uncomfortable. Who knew cats had bodyguards?

But that's okay right, because you're going to the cafe to see the cats and not eat the food aren't you? Well... okay, before I booked I remember thinking it was a strange choice because I have only ever known one cat that actually desired to interact with people. But then I thought that surely they would choose cats that were the overly friendly variety. Well, we were there for our two hour booking. The cats remained asleep for pretty much all of the time. Every now and then one would get up and stretch and everybody would descend on it with toys and cameras only for it to lie down again immediately. The only two times the cats were doing anything was one cat that remained sat on a window sill staring at a pigeon in the garden outside, and a couple of times the cats made a run for the door for the staff only areas. When we had ten minutes left to go we were the only people left in the cafe, and at that point one of the cats decided to start playing with us and a few others woke up too. But nowhere near the vision of friendly, happy cats that I had imagined.

Overall? Give this one a miss. My friends who absolutely loved cats were satisfied with the minimum level of cat time they got, but I was left thinking that cats were pretty much the least logical choice of cafe animal. The atmosphere is not worth the amount you pay to get in and nor is the amount of cat action you get, the food is fine but overpriced, and the staff just give a horrible atmosphere to the place. Disappointing for how unique of an idea it is, but too many things have just conspired to make this place nowhere near as good as it was supposed to be.

If you'd like to visit, you can view the website here.


  1. Such an interesting idea for a café! Too bad it didn't work out :/


  2. Oh dear, it's a shame it didn't quite live up to expectations, it sounds badly organised if you booked and still couldn't be sat together by the staff.


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