This is a bit of a delayed review of a place that has had such a massive buzz…
London’s very first cat café.
I had spied the posts about a potential feline residency in Shoreditch gathering momentum for quite some time, so when the chance finally arose to make a reservation I pounced on the booking system as quick as possible. So many bookings were made in that first 24hours that the system could barely handle it – a good sign right?
Facebook was littered with posts about the crazy cat cafe and all the hype pointed at something new and exciting. I had visions of a normal cafe, chatting over coffee with a friend – maybe with a slice of cake and all the while surrounded by cats and kittens. In my head they were climbing on the counters, brushing through our legs. Like a peek into the life of a crazy cat lady who has had a bunch of friends over for tea.
If I am perfectly honest it was a massive let down. I even had to apologise to my girlfriend for taking her there. Rather than the cute kitten frenzy we envisaged it was more like a strange and silent cat hunt with a bunch of strangers in the basement of a charity furniture shop.
Upstairs the walls are adorned with cat climbing features and a giant cat wheel. There are a few cute cat beds – like human beds but for cats – and pretty tables and trinkets. This room levelled out our expectation; not too bad but nothing exciting. Only a few cats however and each was the focus of several more people cooing over it. I hadnt listened to a briefing about the cats and washed my hands in the prior room for this! So we ventured downstairs.
Down in the basement room it was even quieter and even more surreal. So quiet that everyone spoke in hushed voices, not wanting anyone else to hear their conversation – probably because, if like us, they were discussing how everyone in the room either looked lonely, they will always live with their mother or a simply resembled a pedophile.
I like cats, I do; I like cat videos and I like my friends who have cats but I didnt like these people. In fact I think i hated these people and I didnt really know why. Maybe because they were the kind of people who were suddenly major cat experts that knew each and every cats inner thoughts. I had muttered, quietly of course, to my girlfriend ‘I wonder if the cats are all related’ and before we could make our own assumptions a lady butted in to tell us exactly which kittens were descended from which cats. She did not work there.
What really surprised me and let me down i guess was the lack of cats. In the same way that if you go to the zoo and all the animals are out of site. And any sudden appearance of a cat was met with oohs and ahhs, pointing and a shit ton of phone photos. One cat that climbed across the sofa we sat on was met with no less than 5 different people taking its photo.
If this was a cafe for people who had never seen a cat before I would understand. But it’s a cat people!
The lack of [available/awake] cats meant that any that were around were the centre of attention of many people, all competing in a very passive aggressive ‘im not trying to attract this cat but I actually am’ kind of way. And you know what? Being snubbed by a cat in front of a whole room of people is pretty gutting. So after your first pursing of the lips and best squeaky cat call, you don’t bother. There are boxes of cat toys you could use to entice them but to be honest you’d just look even more desperate. I wished the place was so over run with cats that you couldnt get away rather than the reality which was the exact opposite.
I had one coffee, that took ages to come and the cake i did see on peoples plates wasn’t enticing.
So i paid £5 to look at some cats with a few quid on top for a black coffee. I could of grabbed a Starbucks and wandered down any street and gotten pestered by more cats to be fair, and had change from my fiver.
Now this isnt all to say dont go. We did go at 9pm so it was very late (do cats have a curfew?) and I appreciate what they are doing there, their hearts in the right place, but I warn you to not expect what you imagine and just go to enjoy how surreal it all is.