In 1998 someone in Taiwan had a brilliant idea: what if you could go to a cafe to drink hot beverages, eat pastries AND pet cats? What a wonderful thing that would be. And so it was that the world's first cat cafe opened in Taiwan in 1998. This Taiwanese Cat Cafe was incredibly popular amongst Taipei locals as well as Japanese tourists. These tourists must have seen the genius in this idea to capitalize on we, the petloving petless and today Japan now boasts 39 cat cafes. The most in the world, and now we all want one.
Europe has cat cafes in Vienna, Paris and now London. My city. I had been to the Le Cafe des Chats for a treat in Paris and was quite frankly underwhelmed. Cats are nocturnal creatures who are rarely affectionate to those with whom they are closest, let alone a bunch of coffee guzzling strangers all jonesing for a bit of lap action. Neverthless I still wanted to go. So we went. Upon entering we were greeted by a beautiful young French woman (are there any other kind)? She asked us to sterilize our hands before opening the door that might as well have led to the fountain of youth for the amount of people who were lined up outside. Once on the other side of the door Steve and I scanned the room for a seat, or a cat, whichever we could find first. Unfortunately we found neither, so we headed down the stairs into the basement.
The decor downstairs was twee and yet tasteful (French). We found a vacant table across from the kitchen and waited. We were on safari. We 'oooohed and aahhhhed' at anything that walked by our table at a certain eye level. I'm fairly sure I reached out to pet someone's toddler at one point. I was desperate for a little fur affection: a purr, a sniff, anything! After about ten minutes, the feeling of desperation faded into one of hunger and we ordered our lunch. The salad I had was delicious and it was thoroughly amusing to watch the cats as they wandered around freely while us idiots photographed them between bites as if they were rare and wild beasts.
Now for those of you who know me you know that the slightest sighting of fur reduces me to a blubbering, slobbering mess. It is a crime that I don't have a pet and I am exactly who these drop-in centers are designed for. It's like a shooting gallery for the lonely and leasing in the big city. Because of this addiction I had to go and visit London's latest venue promising cakes and company from its 11 feline residents. I can't blame these people. It's a great business model, but London has a lot to learn from Paris when it comes to cuisine. Obvs. Not only does Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium expect patrons to pay a £5 cover charge just for the privilege of walking through the door, but they also serve up pretty tasteless snacks and cakes which are a little overpriced.
The cats all seem well looked after and this is the most important thing, of course. Although most of them were too elusive or asleep for us to get much contact on our visit. But if you want to be an eatery, you need to serve food people want to eat. Upon leaving, a pleasant woman asked us how we found it and I remarked that it would be nice if they dressed the salad as that made up a large portion of my meal. I actually saw the lights turn on in her head when she replied 'that's a really good suggestion!' Surely dressing a salad is not a nouveau concept. She then stated 'we have some balsamic glaze banging around there somewhere. We should use it.' Woah.
I have high hopes that Lady Dinah's will get it together eventually. If not, there are plenty of other people who are surely lined up to do what they do, but better. I never thought I'd say this, but when you're paying £5 to get in and it's billed as a restaurant the cats just aren't enough.