Dine Graced by a feline at Lady Dinah’s

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is Menagerie meets Mealtime

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Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium sells itself as a quiet calm refuge in the midst of a busy City.  Located in London’s bustling and colourful Shoreditch, it may be ambitious for a café here to strive towards true tranquillity. However, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium certainly evokes the notion of a refuge, both for its guests and it’s titular feline inhabitants. Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is therefore a double refuge; it serves as a home for rescued cats and is a trendy East London pocket of comfort, providing warming food, drink and company. As a sanctuary, Lady Dinah’s is designed for the needs of its cats at its very core. That isn’t to say the café gives the impression of an animal shelter with a rather bleak scene of caged animals looking for a new home. On the contrary, Lady Dinah’s is decidedly a home in it’s own right, and you, the customer are the guest in a household with its own set of characters.  Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium introduces its cast of cats on its website, each with a full biography which charmingly describes the personality traits of each individual, truly as if they were members of an ensemble. Many a visitor are seen spotting the slumbering and newly famous felines as if awe-stricken fans of an A-lister celebrity. However it must be said that the mentality of a guest is one that should be maintained, you are encouraged to admire rather than pester, and of course to never wake a sleeping giant, however small and cuddly they may be.

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The veneration of the domestic cat is something that needless to say, is consistent throughout history and contemporary day. One need only look at the media attention given to ‘Tashirojima’ to verify this. Colloquially known as Japan’s ‘Cat Island’, it is almost parallel to the sheep in many a Welsh Village; wherein the feline population rather drastically outweighs the human one. However, the commercialization of cats for all their ‘kawaii’ charm isn’t one that necessarily speaks of exploitation. It is with a clear conscience one can visit Lady Dinah’s. It is very evident that the cats here aren’t objectified but very much celebrated and admired, and a visit is very much done so as an animal lover, the cost of dining amongst them and observing their idiosyncratic quirks helps maintain the safe environment they reside in.

The Décor is more London Chic than Derelict Cat Sanctuary

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The impression is very much of a sleek, modern but cosy boutique with a décor that successfully stays abreast of its image-focused London competitors. The furnishing is stylishly eclectic, where cats wander in between chesterfields, bookcases and tasteful Rococo seating arrangements.  With this in mind, Lady Dinah is clearly designed to attract a varieties of customers and would be perfect for those looking for a quiet place to read, eat, or commune with friends – the only provision being a fondness for domestic cats. As someone who studied in London, away from my family pets, I would have loved the comforting nostalgia of an afternoon sat relaxing as furry home comforts introduce themselves for an hour or two. The cats at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium are confident around people and a short break there is a way for those who cannot have pets to feel as if they do, even if only for a short while. This is very much recommended for a stressed or highly-strung urbanite.

It’s not quite Kitty Nibbles on this Moreish Menu

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Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium isn’t merely a gimmick however, if so, it wouldn’t have fostered such a high level of popularity that makes booking in advance completely necessary. It costs £6 per person to reserve a seat, and dates are added to the booking calendar a mighty 50 days in advance. Although this is a sizable expense, the fact that nothing on the menu exceeds £10 means that this doesn’t have to be a very expensive endeavour, particularly given London’s prices. Truly, Lady Dinah’s is successful equally because it is a provider of quality dining in it’s own right. Its menu achieves the feel of a fashionable and international East London Tea House. However, due to licensing laws, Lady Dinah’s is unable to cook food on the premises, I can absolutely attest that the food is prepared to a high standard and is sourced from fresh and local suppliers on a daily basis. Expert deliciously appointed light meals, salads and cakes.

I’ll forgive you for thinking that cream and tuna is exclusively on offer. Rather, a tempting option may be the Brick Lane Bagels, which are priced at £5.30. These are collected daily from the famous Brick Lane Bagel shop and are expertly filled at Lady Dinah’s. A particular favourite, and no doubt inspired by the feline predisposition for fish and dairy is the Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Chive filling, which is velvety, a little savoury and a little tart. A vegan Bagel of hummus and sundried tomato is also offered and equally enticing.

Alternatively, why not try the Spicy Hungarian Beef Goulash, which, admittedly isn’t most commonly associated with the diet of the domestic cat but will no doubt has the respective allure of catnip. This Eastern European treat is hearty and warming and is prepared with tender and delicate slow cooked pierces of beef in a sensuous paprika based sauce. Served with Cholla bread, the dish is available at £6.50, a moderate price for a filling meal in London.

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The sweet is as strong as the savoury at Lady Dinah’s, which has an equally appetising desert menu. I ordered the Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake. Although this may sound like a saccharine confection ordered at a high-street coffee chain, the desert was delicately flavoured with a touch of spice to offset its sweetness. The cake, incidentally a Vegan option, was priced at £3.95 a slice.

Family Pet Becomes Compelling Brand

Branding is something that Lady Dinah’s does very effectively and is in no part a huge factor in its success. As the self-acclaimed ‘First Cat Café’ in London, the emporium is aware that a large portion of its clientele will be veritable feline-fanatics and are happy to not only get to know the individual characters of its resident cats, but purchase gifts to memorialize their experience from the on-line shop; gifts range from the more standard Lady Dinah’s mug to the ‘Monocle Cat Necklace’. A zealous customer may take to extremes and book a place on the Cat Yoga class, held weekly, which I’m assured, isn’t taught by the cats but merely punctuated by their own enviable and nimble posing.

A Memorable Trip for all Feline Fans

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I recommend a trip to Lady Dinah’s for those who love animals yet aren’t able to have any of their own, for those who desire a calm afternoon with a purring companion. I also recommend it for those who want a novel experience in London that admittedly has a wholly unique selling point, for those looking for an unusual place to eat, to visit with friends or for a memorable date.

It’s understandable to worry whether a trip to a café with feline co-inhabitants may not be fully sanitary, however, I urge you to qualm these concerns with a suitably catlike sense of agility. At its heart, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is quirky charming and well-presented, very much like the cats it celebrates.

It goes without saying that if you’re more canine inclined, then perhaps Lady Dinah’s is not for you.

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