I have to admit something. I am a cat person. And I may just borderline on being a Crazy Cat Lady. I am okay with this and my husband pats himself on the back for marrying me and saving me from fully earning that cat-obsessed title. I love all animals, but cats have a special place in my heart, so when I heard about Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium–a cafe where you could have an afternoon tea surrounded by cats–I booked the first date they had available.
Lady Dinah’s concept is ingenious. They offer an afternoon tea experience with all of the accoutrements traditionally offered at a proper English tea, but with a twist. Some people say “If you’ve been to one tea, you’ve been to them all.” Well, Lady Dinah’s is truly the exception. Lady Dinah’s made going to another tea seem not only exciting, but brand new.
Located in Shoreditch, I expected more of a relaxed cafe vibe, and less of a posh tea setting, but I was unprepared for what I was faced with. For Seinfeld fans, the term Bizarro World pops into my head. The waitstaff were hyper and cat-obsessed, and jumped into any conversation we were having to talk about the cats. I made a comment to my girlfriends about one cat on the floor, and out of nowhere, the waitress popped her head into our circle and decided to give us the entire rundown of where Mr. Whiskers likes to be tickled and which cat is his girlfriend and what he likes to do with his Sunday afternoons. It was really freaking weird. We all were taking bets on if we were surrounded by people on uppers or if we were actually on the inside of a cult. No. Exaggerations.
The cats themselves is what brought the weirdness to a whole new level. There are clearly defined rules around the cafe which are in place for good reasons. You can’t enter without having first washed your hands. You cannot wake or touch a sleeping cat. You can’t give any of them food. All reasonable requests that protect the safety and wellbeing of the creatures. Still, after all of the precautions taken to protect these cats, I still couldn’t help but think something was wrong with them. Never in my 31 years of living and growing up around cats have I seen so many of them in one room with no energy whatsoever. Most were asleep and oblivious to the people around them, but even the ones that were awake seemed to have no awareness of the situation. It seemed completely unnatural and unlike any experience with cats I have ever had. Our entire table was confused and questioned again if we were in some strange cat cult or, if while the waitstaff was possibly on uppers, that perhaps the cats were on downers. It just did not add up.
By all means, feel free to try the cafe and let me know if your experience is any different. I actually hope it is. The idea is special and great, and they actually provided nice quality food and drink with adorable touches. Just look at the tea sandwiches! But, at the end of the experience, no amount of cute little cat buns could make up for the awkward feeling I had when I walked out the cafe doors.
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
152-154 Benthal Green Road