Going for High Tea is one of those quintessential English experiences – the little teapot, the tiny sandwiches, the scones with jam and clotted cream… It's something that's practically required if you're visiting London for the first time.
But what if I told you that there was a place where you could have High Tea surrounded by a dozen furry friends?
Let me introduce to you Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium, London's very first cat cafe.
What is a cat cafe?
The concept of the cat cafe began in Asia, where many people live in apartments too tiny to own any pets. The cafes (there are also dog cafes, rabbit cafes, and even an owl cafe!) offer a place for petless people to go and enjoy time with cuddly animals. The concept has slowly begun spreading around the world, and London's first cat cafe opened in 2014 in the city's Shoreditch neighborhood after a successful crowd-funding campaign.
Today, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium has many of the trappings of your average cat cafe: cats of all ages and personalities (all of which have either been adopted or rescued off the street), a fun and whimsical environment with plenty of hiding places and toys, rules to follow in order to keep the kitties safe and healthy, and a unique cafe/tea menu.
Like many other popular cat cafes, you need to book a table at Lady Dinah's. A booking fee of £6.50 secures you a seat for 90 minutes of feline goodness, and you can then order food/drinks off the menu. (Or, if you book High Tea like I did, the booking fee is included, along with all the High Tea trappings.)
Visiting Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium
Finding Lady Dinah's is pretty simple. It's located on Bethnal Green road in Shoreditch, not far from Old Spitalfields Market, and you can't miss the floor-to-ceiling window that usually has a number of cats lounging in it.
You'll want to arrive at the time you booked a table (like any normal restaurant reservation), and then will be taken inside to wash your hands and hear all the house rules. The rules are pretty simple: you can play with the cats that are roaming around, but you're asked to leave sleeping kitties be. You're also asked not to feed any the cats, and you're not supposed to pick them up, either.
After this, you'll be taken to your table either upstairs or downstairs. The downstairs area is my favorite, as it's decorated like an indoor forest, complete with giant tree in the middle with plenty of hidey-holes for the cats to enjoy.
Lady Dinah's has two types of staff on the floor at all time: The wait staff who will take your order/bring you food and tea, and the cat staff who are in charge of amusing the cats and telling you all about them. If you want to know a specific cat's story or know what his/her favorite toy is, the cat staff are only too happy to help.
I would LOVE to have a job like this!
High Tea at Lady Dinah's
On my first visit to Lady Dinah's, I simply booked a table and ordered a coffee and slice of cake. Their menu includes everything from specialty teas and coffee drinks (named after the resident cats), to bagels, to cake. From what I've heard, their menu has improved immensely since they opened in 2014 – and they cater to all diets, including gluten-free and vegan.
On my second trip to Lady Dinah's, I decided to book High Tea. They serve High Tea Friday-Monday and it costs £35 per person.
You get a three-tiered plate of sandwiches, rolls, scones, jam, cream, pastries and cakes, which you can request unlimited refills on during your 90-minute time slot. I didn't even finish my first serving, and they nicely wrapped up the leftovers for me to take with me to snack on later.
And, of course, you can enjoy the antics of the cats as you have your tea.
This is one of the most unique High Teas I've been to, and I think it's reasonably priced, too. (And I thought the food was very good!)
Need to know
Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium is open every day except Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (12 p.m. – 8 p.m. in winter).
The cafe is not really meant for kids, and has a minimum age of 12.
You don't *have* to book a table ahead of time, but I would highly recommend it as the place does get very busy and has an extremely limited number of walk-in seats available. How far in advance should you book? I would book High Tea at least a few days in advance (in some cases you may even need to book the week before), and regular tables 1-2 days in advance to avoid disappointment.
Have you ever visited a cat cafe on your travels? Would you?