Illy – Regent Street

This is only a few minutes from Oxford Circus tube station, down the quieter bit of Regent Street. It is close to a Pret, Paul, Cafe Nero and Leon, to name but 4, and there are probably more too, it was just noticeable how many places there were within a short distance, even for London it seemed extreme.

Illy I had seen the other day but decided to save it for a trip with Kerry when we could both experience it. The at table service is nice now and again, although we did both go and check out the various sweets and savouries on offer, the words do not do any cake justice really.

WP_20141116_020Kerry had a cortado, or whatever they called it – still an espresso with a small amount of froth – and a toffee muffin and I had a latte machiato and a biscuit selection. Total price was only £7.80, which seemed an absolute steal.

The latte was super smooth, I’d go so far as to call it divine and the best I have had for quite some time. The biscuits were a bit dull, although they were all different in look they tasted very similar, even the one in the middle of the picture which had almond and dried fruit tasted no different really.

Kerry’s muffin was halved and had a good sized portion of soft toffee, so much so that the second half had to be carefully wrapped and saved for later. The sponge was nice and soft, clearly freshly made too. Her coffee wasn’t quite what she expected, think it was the froth which doesn’t make the coffee as white as a Costa version of the same drink. She says she wouldn’t choose that again but that there was nothing really wrong with it.

WP_20141116_018A really nice place, lots of attentive and friendly staff, nice and open environment, was quite busy but didn’t feel loud or that we were rushed, in fact we had to ask for the bill. There is a small upstairs area too, which would be nice for a bit of people watching, and the chairs looked a little comfier too.

Only down side was that a woman came in begging but can’t blame them for that, and she left soon enough. We will be going back for sure, their coffee menu intrigued me and I would like to try a few others, and more cake of course.

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium – Bethnal Green Road

WP_20141104_002As soon as we heard about this place I knew we would be going, Kerry is a mad cat woman in training and I am getting that way myself after only a short time as a cat’s pawrent – we have one, but are getting another soon and sure more will follow that.

The location is easy to find, about 5 minutes from Shoreditch High Street station and on a main road so pretty hard to miss. You get a brief introduction about the rules – no feeding the cats, no picking them up, no stealing them (that was my rule) and asked to wash hands, and then you are released into the cafe.

It has a ground floor and a basement area, the ground floor is standard tables and chairs, the basement has more of an eclectic feel, mis-matched sofas and chairs, a hipster feel without feeling forced, more like it’s through necessity. We found a nice sofa and had a quick glance at the menu – it isn’t extensive but has a wide enough range to cover most tastes I think.

I had a decaf latte (£2.80 – a 30p premium for the decaf) and red velvet cake (£3.95) whilst Kerry had a cream tea for 1 (£6), but with coffee which should have attracted a 50p premium but we were not charged that extra. So total of £12.75, which is about right I think, and there is a welfare charge too, £5 per person – that is to cover the cats needs, which must be major as it is a busy place!

My latte was okay, nothing super special, it seemed a little weak and given that you get a 90 minute slot I could have done with the option of a larger one, could have had a second but I needed a size pretty much 50% again on top of what I got. The red velvet cake was okay, it was a nice big slice, but I will admit I struggled a little towards the end as the thick cream cheese frosting nearly got the better of me. I was torn between this and the salted caramel brownie, so next time that will be the choice I think.

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Kerry’s Americano was nice, only complaint was that it went cold due to being distracted by the cats! The scone was really nice, masses of cream and jam – far too much, they could save money by offering smaller portions, people can always ask for more. The choice was plain or fruit scone, an option not made, Kerry would have preferred a fruit scone but not a disaster as, again, cats caused distraction. The milk came in a cool bottle, type used for school children many moons ago when milk was free at school.

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And then there were cats, there are 10 in total and they can basically do what they want, whilst we were there that was mainly look asleep, but that’s fine as I don’t want them to be treated like dancing bears for my entertainment. There are various places for them to relax up away from being poked and stroked.

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There are toys, including a huge cat wheel, which I would love to see in action but might take a few more visits and a lot of finger crossing.

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This is Wookie, he is a great big boy, he had a walk around before settling for a few minutes on a book case, then after too much cooing and attention for his liking he headed high up to the top of a unit (it’s his tail and paw on a previous picture) and we watched him there for ages. He is just a magnificent specimen and I want to steal him.

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As we left 2 had positioned themselves in the window, a great advert for those passing, although as the waiting list can extend to several weeks they would have to cross their fingers for a cancellation!

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