I’m always up for frequenting cafes and coffee shops, looking for an interesting place that I haven’t been to before; if it has cake, various hot beverages and and a quirky atmosphere, then I’m pretty content. But what could make my visit to a cafe even more enjoyable, you ask? Cats. Live cats. Basically, if you add cats to anything you will increase your enjoyment significantly – or signifi-CAT-ly (Note: there will likely be several cat related puns in this post. I do not apologize).
Right, so apparently cat cafes are a thing. Who knew? I obviously didn’t and just about had a heart-attack when I found out that there was one in London, which was a lot more accessible to me now, than back in Canada. And I just happened to be going down to London for the weekend (that sounds posh, doesn’t it!). Purrrr-fect! I must credit this discovery to Buzzfeed (the website for which I spend far too much time perusing), for introducing me to Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium! Check out that name! And check out these links below:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/?country=uk (Note: I will not be held responsible if you waste your entire day on this website)
http://ladydinahs.com/?ref=driverlayer.com (Look at all the cuteness!)
LDCE is located in the area of London called Bethnal Green, which to me is still in Central London. But let’s see…nope, apparently it’s part of Greater London. Alright fine. It’s just on the inside of Zone 2 on the Central Line of the Tube…and oh bollocks. I’m just realizing that had I actually changed lines and taken the Overground, got off at Shoreditch High Street (actually in Zone 1), I might have saved a bit of fare. …I sound like Adham with his Tube challenges. Ah well, I got to stretch my legs amidst the grubbiness of central / not central London. Seriously, what is with all the litter? I know London has a lot of people, but presumably the city also has some sort of waste management scheme. And I assume (perhaps naively), that people would want to ensure their neighbourhoods, businesses & establishments are relatively inviting and clean looking.
Yes, I realize that LDCE is just another “gimmicky cafe,” however it is a “gimmicky cafe” that damn well hooked me from the get-go! It is a business venture. A way to establish themselves from all the other hundreds of cafes and eateries in London. Booking is recommended, as it is a very popular place and as such there is a £6 booking fee, netting you a table for a 1.5 hour slot; this money is used to look after and provide for the cats. Any food or drinks comes at an additional charge. I’ve heard the complaint “why would I pay extra to go to this cafe, when I can go to one for free?” OK, fair enough. But you’re paying for the atmosphere (CAT-mosphere), the little bit extra that goes to help make it unique. It’s not the type of cafe I’d frequent every week if I were living in London, so for an extra £6, I’d say the experience(s) would be worth it.
This is the type of place you should definitely go with a fellow cat lover. I was a lonely singleton – the only person in the entire place on my own – so I can’t help but feel my visit was slightly dampened by my lack of human interaction. Cat interaction (inter-CAT-tion) on the other hand…no, there was still a lack there as well. Classic cats. But really since everyone there is a feline fanatic (although, it looked as though there were one or two board boyfriends), there were plenty of shared smiles, knowing looks, and choruses of “awwwws” circulating throughout the room. Seriously, anytime a cat would do something, we would all congregate with our cameras and snap away.
A two level cafe, the front of house entrance way was secured by several doors to make sure no cats escaped: the main door, a secondary waiting room / tiny gift shop door, and a tertiary-into-the-actual-cafe door. Ain’t nobody with fur leaving that place. It got a bit cramped with 9 of us waiting for our 12:30 time slot, as we received instructions: 1) let sleeping cats lie 2) don’t pick the cats up 3) don’t feed the cats your human food 4) no flash photography. Tables are assigned (for whatever reason) and I got placed downstairs, which was pretty bangin’, as far as cat activity goes; the cafe has 9 cats, 5 of which had situated themselves in the lower level. We were encouraged however, to walk about the entire cafe and not restrict ourselves specifically to our table.
As the cats are free to wander where they want, it’s sort of hit and miss as to how many (if any) you’ll see; it’s also hit and miss as to whether the cats are active or not (they’re not gonna move if they don’t want to); and it’s also hit and miss whether the cats choose to interact with you or ignore you. Situated throughout, were various types of cat towers, cubbies, scratching posts, platforms, toys, food & water dishes, and litter boxes (no, it did not smell like cat pee. These boxes were in the corners and kept fresh). Basically, the cats owned the place. If a cat chose to lay on the steps, tough luck for you if you had to use the loo. If a cat slept hidden under a shelf the entire time, too bad. If a cat decided to curl up on your lap, excellent! If a cat actually wanted to discover you and play around, more excellent!
Likely with the mixture of cats AND people needing attending, I somehow got missed in the fray of things, and subsequently had to wait 30-40 minutes before I was asked if I had ordered. Rather disorganized I think; this would have been pretty deal breaking elsewhere, but because I had the distraction of cats I let it slide. I also over-stayed my welcome by 30 minutes, but perhaps as there was less traffic coming in, it didn’t matter. There was a small “library,” mainly books regarding cats and so over my afternoon snack I perused a bizarre book of cat-inspired artwork. Uh-huh…This was of course in conjunction with stopping every 2 minutes to ogle at a cat and attract it’s attention. Yes, I talked to the cats, openly and unabashedly in a high pitched tone. We all did it. I regret nothing!
So in true cat form, I was pretty much ignored and didn’t warrant their attention. No cat wanted to play. No cat jumped up on me and begged for attention. One cat allowed me a brisk brushing, but only after being coaxed out of it’s box by an employee. One cat wandered over to my table, sniffed me, hovered about and then kept going. But ALL the cats let us pet them. All the cats were very friendly (ha! it may not sound like it), patient and receptive to numerous people traipsing in and out, gawking at them all day. They had a very laisse faire attitude, I must say. They were quite content to just sit wherever they happened to be and allow us to rake our hands through their fur. It seemed as though the cats were the most receptive to the staff, rather than the patrons; but I suppose that’s to be expected, since they come to be more familiar with certain people.
This is Petra. Uber-fluffy! She dozed in that box pretty well the entire time I was there, emerging for about 3 minutes after she had been coaxed into a brushing. I’d say she was my favourite, but probably only because her container was behind my chair and so she posed the best chance for interaction. She did not live up to my expectations, however.
We have Donnie & Co. eagerly waiting by the kitchen door. They weren’t hungry, they just wanted to go inside. I don’t know the name of the black / white cat, although I think I heard “Alice” thrown around once or twice. Donnie finagled his way into a casual business meeting that was going down, settling on the person’s laptop so he could take things into account. The cat with the intense stare on the right is Biscuit. She mostly pretended to be asleep, but then you’d catch her staring into your soul.
There are a few siblings in this establishment, but I’m pretty sure this is the same cat. I definitely know the one on the left is Artemis, so we’ll stick with that. Artemis or “Radiator Pancake Cat” as I coined her, just kind of oozed out over the radiator, her arm dangling over the edge.
Here we have the only evidence of a cat being active. It’s Artemis again: first pondering the meaning of life on a sturdy piece of cardboard; then mounting the Big Wheel, where she sat pondering whether or not it was worth it to put on a show; then she ran for 30 seconds before just sliding to a stop and plopping down.
I must say that my experience at LDCE was quite enjoyable; it definitely delivered on the cat front. Would I go back? Not on a regular basis, but perhaps for a special occasion or with a visiting friend (I WILL take anyone who visits me to this place. For some of you, perhaps this is the extra incentive you need to fly over here; for others, maybe a solid reason to stay away). My only regret was that I didn’t take along a big enough bag – a handbag is not nearly large enough to smuggle 9 cats!