Postcard from New York: Meow Parlour

Meow ParlourCrumbs & Whiskers‘ kickstarter campaign has raised over $35,000, has gotten all of the necessary permits from the D.C. government and, this just in, officially signed a lease for a Georgetown location. So Washington is definitely getting a cat café in the near future though it probably won’t open until late summer. And until it does, I thought I’d share what I hope Crumbs & Whiskers will be like. And that’s basically Meow Parlour.

Meow Parlour is New York’s first, adn to date only, cat café. Or perhaps I should say a space with cats, where you can bring coffee purchased at another location around the corner. Unlike Paris’ cat cafe, Cafe des Chats (which actually is more of a teahouse than a café), D.C.’s Crumbs & Whiskers will also technically not really be a café. The US has stricter restrictions on food service industry regulations that basically mandate that kitchens be not only cat-free but also in a completely separate space. When I talked to Crumbs & Whiskers‘ founder, Kanchan Singh, at her kickstarter campaign launch (yes, I’m pretty into this cat café business) she mentioned partnering with a food provider in order to comply with health code regulations. Just like at Meow Parlour, you’ll basically be paying for play time with kitties… and you can chose to bring in pastries and/or coffee from an approved vendor along. For Meow Parlour, that approved vendor is Macaron Parlour, an East Village bakery I first discovered when it was just a booth at Union Square Holiday Market and have enjoyed visiting since, even when they make crazy flavours like Cheetos macarons (which are actually quite delicious by the way). Macarons and cats are basically two of my favourite things, so the minute online reservations opened for Meow Parlour I booked two spots to check it out during a business trip to New York. I dragged my friend Caitlin, who may not love cats nearly as much as I do, but can’t resist the appeal of macarons, and checking out a hot new local business.

Before getting to Meow Parlour, we actually swung by Meow Parlour Patisserie just around the corner to pick up a coffee and some macarons, including some adorable Hello Kitty looking ones.

Meow Parlour

We then entered Meow Parlour, where the first thing we were asked to do is sign a lengthy waiver, take off our shoes and sanitize our hands. In New York in February this wasn’t my favourite thing to do so if you go, be warned: wear pretty socks or make sure you’ve got a good pedicure going! Once inside, you’ll find the space bright, clean and chic. Also, of course, full of cats! There’s definitely a strong cat-theme but everything is done very tastefully. There’s a wall of cats of course, with pictures of the current residents along with their “purrsonality type” but there’s no tacky cat trees.

Wall of cats at Meow Parlour

Instead there’s a full wall bookshelf with nooks and crannies and holes that allow the kittens to hop up and down, hide in scratchers at the top or lay next to you and a tasteful Le Chat pillows as you read The Cat in The Hat (or another cat themed book) from the library.

I love the design of the space at Meow Parlous! (picture courtesy Meow Parlour)

Meow Parlour

Meow Parlour

Before even entering Meow Parlour, you’ll probably spot a few kitties observing the traffic on Hester Street from oversized white wooden letters that spell the word “meow” at the floor to ceiling window at the front.

Meow Parlour

Meow Parlour

Back towards the shelves, there’s also soft cushions on the floors surrounding low hexagonal white coffee tables with see-through tops and cat beds inside, as well as cat head shaped holes on the sides. There’s typically a cat or two inside the table as well and you can watch them sleep peacefully 😉 If you’re here to get some work done, there’s high top tables and free wi-fi. Cats, it is a well known fact, love nothing more than laying on computer keyboards while you’re trying to write a blog post… so hopefully you have realistic expectations about how much work you can actually get done at Meow Parlour. And if you just want to play with some cats, there’s plenty of toys laying around and plenty of cats willing to chase stuff around.

Meow Parlour

Meow Parlour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since visiting, I have loved following Meow Parlour on social media since it opened. That’s another thing that the New York cat cafe does really well and I can’t believe there’s actually someone on their payroll whose job it is to hang out with cats of day, take pictures of them and post them on social media (follow Meow Parlour on twitter, instagram and facebook). Add the fact that there’s macarons involved in the business too and, well, you can pretty much guess this is my dream job. All jokes aside (I’m actually not really joking) the folks at Meow Parlour do a great job of updating followers on new resident kittens and on letting them know who found his or her forever home. Because, of course, all of the cats at Meow Parlour are available for adoption. In that regard, Meow Parlour and Crumbs & Whiskers, which will follow the same model, are kind of halfway houses for cats… it’s not quite like being in a shelter and the idea is that they shouldn’t stay there very long. I can only hope that Crumbs & Whiskers will be as tastefully a space as Meow Parlour and that it will enjoy the same level of adoption rates. There’s definitely been a lot of turn-over at Meow Parlour since it’s opened and that’s a sign that it’s doing something right! I certainly hope for the same success rate for the cats at Crumbs & Whiskers, which will all come from the Washington Humane Society.

If you’re interested in checking out Meow Parlour when you’re in New York, they take a limited number of walk-ins so you should definitely consider making a reservation online at meowparlour.com. A half hour of kitty time will set you back $4 and you can book up to 5 hours. They have children hours too if you have kids (check the website for details). Meow Parlour is at 46 Hester Street in the Lower East Side, and Meow Parlour Patisserie is around the corner at 34 Ludlow Street. All pictures unless otherwise noted were taken by me back in February 2015.

Postcard from Paris: a Paws Café at Café des Chats

Cafe des chats, rue sedainePaws Café… Pause café… get it? OK, that was a bad pun, but I couldn’t help it. Just like I couldn’t help visiting both of Paris’ cat cafés during my last stay in the city. In my defense, one of them is just a few blocks away from my parents’ apartment. When did rue Sedaine become so hip?

The original Café des Chats, located in the haut Marais close to Beaubourg, opened back in the fall of 2013 and turned out to be so popular that a second location near Bastille was added. Margaux Gandelon, the young entrepreneuse who launched the “café chat” concept in Paris after a successful crowd-funding campaign, was directly inspired by the “neko” cafés in Japan. She describes her project as ronronthérapie, or purr therapy, arguing for the potential health benefits of stroking a purring kitty. However, it’s the health of the cats that’s truly at the center of the projects, and all visitors must abide by a few rules:don’t force the cats to do anything they don’t want to do,do not wake up the cats  if they’re sleeping and do not feed the cats.

Humans shouldn’t feed the cats, but café des chats feeds its humans pretty well, and the kitchen is the only area where cats are not allowed. I hear the brunch is quite popular though when we visited, around goûter time, we simple settled for coffee, tea and cheesecakes. If you have a choice to visit one over the other location, I would recommend visiting the one in the Marais, which is a beautiful and cozy bi-level space with a faux-library and a 15th century vaulted ceiling (downstairs.) The Bastille location is more modern, but also easier to get into as it doesn’t require reservations. Both feature a group of twelve-ish resident cats, which, unlike in other cat cafés, notably in the United States, are not up for adoption. All of them, though, were previously stray or abandoned cats that were given a permanent home rues Sedaine or Michel Le Comte. and a portion of the proceeds from the cafés though is donated to animal protection organizations.

Cafe des chats

Cafe des chats, Paris

Cafe des chats paris

I can’t wait for DC to open its own cat café! If you too are excited about this prospect, visit Crumbs and Whiskers’ website for updates on their kickstarter’s campaign [update: here’s my post on my first visit to Crumbs & Whiskers.] Until then, I’m glad I have not one, but two places to go when I need my kitty fix in Paris!

 Café des Chats: 16 Rue Michel le Comte (3ème) | Bastille: 9 Rue Sedaine (11ème)