‘Reshaping the city’: Nottingham’s themed cafe business boom

Video: Kate Chaplin takes a trip down the rabbit hole to the new Alice in Wonderland Cafe 

Do you prefer your coffee with the Madhatter, cats, or even playing board games? Well lucky you because Nottingham has it all. With themed cafes popping up all over the city, Mathias Balslev has been out to see what the secret is to their booming success.

Eateries and cafes are playing an increasingly big role in the shaping of the city landscape with unique places opening regularly.

Today, Nottingham added another themed cafe to its growing list.

The brand new Alice in Wonderland cafe opened today on Station Street fully decked out to fit the theme.

Owner, Ashley Hudson, ran a clock and watch shop just upstairs from his new cafe but opened the new eatery because of his ambition to combine his two passions.

Some of the coffee on offer at the Alice in Wonderland cafe
Some of the coffee on offer at the Alice in Wonderland cafe

He said: “I love clocks and baking so I decided to mix the two and that is where the idea came from.

“When I think of wonderland I think of being taken away to something else and this is the perfect place for it because it is underground and it consumes you into the theme.”

He agrees that as an independent shop, standing out is important for success.

“Having your own brand is important, if you have a theme to base yourself off of then you can build something special.

“It has been hard to source what we needed for the cafe but I would not say it has been more expensive just a lot of hard work.”

The cafe is a one month pop-up but has already increased its capacity because of the interest it has received.

“3,000 people were interested in coming to our opening day and we are already applying to make the cafe permanent,” Ashley said.

Image : Interior of the Kitty Cafe.
Image : Interior of the Kitty Cafe.

Kitty Cafe is based on a concept that originated in Japan, which involves having your tea or coffee in a space surrounded by cats.

Its owner, Kate Charles-Richards, believes that more competition keeps them on their toes.

She said: “It has completely changed the city from a shopping centre to a place where many come for entertainment.

“We feel like our concept fits that mould as it is more than just a cafe, we offer entertainment and tourism value to the city.”

The cafe not only serves as a quirky entertaining evening for people out in the city but also works as a re-homing facility for stray cats, “who receive a high standard of care and have a nice big space to play in,” according to Kate.

The cafe on Friar Lane is one of the first of its kind in England and Kate says Nottingham was the perfect city to open in.

“The city is quirky and even though it is one of the bigger cities in the UK, it still has a town-ish feel to it, there is a real community feeling here.”

A cat poses at the Kitty Cafe

Ludorati Cafe opened in March of last year and is a board game themed cafe with over 750 games to play while you enjoy your coffee.

Its owner Nicholas Higgins agrees that the fierce competition can only benefit them.

He said: “The competition keeps us on our toes, it is useful because it forces us to be more than just a cafe so we know we have to add the entertainment aspect and be innovative all the time.

“There are a lot of successful established chains and to compete you have to be different, it is important to stand out and we do that.”

Interior of Ludorati Cafe

The cafe doubles as a retail shop where costumers can by hundreds of board games to buy in store or order online.

Nicholas said: “The board game industry has been experiencing a renaissance of recent and the combination of offering board games at a cafe creates a good atmosphere to relax and hang out with friends in.”

The cafe itself even has its own game coming soon, in it’s room ‘The Cube’ with the game ‘Escape the Cube’ where participants through a number of challenges will have to escape in a set time.

The Cube Room where Escape the Cube will take place

The cafe on Maid Marian Way may be the first Ludorati in Nottingham but the ambition is not for it to be the last.

“We hope to expand in the near future and the success of this cafe will shape those plans,” Nicholas said.