Text and Photographs by Cindy-Lou Dale
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium (named after Alice’s cat in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”), London’s first cat café—yes, a cat café—is found in the uber trendy art district of Shoreditch. It’s modelled on the cat cafés that first took off in Japan 11 years ago (Tokyo alone has approximately 100 such businesses) and have since been established in cities around the world.
The idea of Lady Dinah’s is to give hipsters and stressed-out feline-loving Londoners, most of whom live in cramped high-rise apartment blocks, a bit of cat therapy. The £6 surcharge is a small extravagance offering a place to reflect and unwind— to come in from the cold to a comfortable wingback chair, a hot cup of tea and a sweet treat, a book, a board game, Wi-Fi, and a bundle of purring joy. It’s something like a supervised indoor pet-rental scheme with a good brew.
Although space is dominated by a Victorian café setting spread over two floors, a great deal of room is also used purely for people to play with the obliging 12 in-house cats and for the cats to play with their toys. But it’s not just about interaction with the cats; it’s the whole anxiety-buster experience of petting some ridiculously cute kitties and forgetting about your troubles—this is purr therapy.
Lady Dinah’s is not a café for cats; it’s a café for humans who are cat lovers. Stop by for a brew, and cuddle with any of the felines so long as they’re willing. Book a table in advance to avoid disappointment, and enjoy High Tea (£35, cover charge included), which features a chilled sparkling drink served in a champagne flute; a three-tiered cake stand filled with a selection of savory options, scones with jam and clotted cream, and an assortment of delectable cakes and bakes. Of course, there’s a choice of excellent teas, including Lady Dinah’s own bespoke blend of Earl Grey infused with rosebuds (available in the café as well as online, so you can take a little of Lady Dinah’s home with you).
During April, in commemoration of HRH Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, Lady Dinah’s offers a special High Tea with Queen Lizzie, one of the café’s cats.
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is at 152-154 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London. For more information or for reservations, phone +44 (0)207 7290953, or go to ladydinahs.com.
Cindy-Lou Dale is our South Africa–born UK-based writer, Rooibos tea drinker, and resident cat lady.