Situated on the Buda island in Kortrijk, from the outside, De Dingen looks like a pretty regular cafe/bar. A cool Belgian beer at one of the sunny outdoor tables was very tempting, but I was on a mission to find Rene, the resident feline. I took a table inside and ordered a ginger & orange "bionade" and a Mexican omelette. I was disappointed not to find Rene sitting on the counter or walking around the cool retro interior. The refreshing drink and delicious omelette distracted me temporarily but I felt I was going to have to ask after Rene. Suddenly I detected movement in the window. Peering closer I could see fur gently rising and falling in a battered suitcase in he window. It was Rene!
I walked over to get a closer look and Wow! Rene is one big cat! Erik, who runs the establishment during daytime hours with his partner Elke, explained that Rene is half Siberian which explained both his colourings and his size. I left Rene to his slumber, resolving to return the following evening when I hoped to meet his owner, Brecht.
In between my visits I experienced the full delights of the 2018 Kattenstoet or "Festival of the Cats" in Ypres (Ieper). You can read and see more of this top event for cat fans in another blog post.
De Dingen operated for eight years as just as an evening bar. My visit came just one week after a refit where the premises was altered to facilitate a daytime service of artisan coffees, snacks and other food. Brecht runs the evening side of things and I was delighted to be recognised as "the Englishman who came to the Kattenstoet and to see Rene" on my arrival. We chatted about Rene.
Rene is 8 years old and Brecht has had him since he was a kitten. His Dad was a Siberian cat and he has always lived at De Dingen. Brecht used to live opposite the cafe and Rene still sometimes goes to visit the new resident at his old address. Rene is a particularly smart cat - you can see it in his eyes and his general demeanour - and like all cats he knows how to get what he wants. Quite happy snoozing in his suitcase, mention the word "Melk" (Milk) and just watch Rene become immediately alert and ready to enjoy one of his favourite treats! Brecht said it a bit earlier then I anticipated but you get the idea from Rene's reaction in the following video.
The Flemish phrase for "tummy rub" from Brecht's lips ensured Rene was prostrate on his back with arms and legs stretched out within a matter of moments!
Brecht said that he has a few customers coming to De Dingen just to see Rene. I looked around at the customers present during my visit and I got a sneaky suspicion that Brecht is underestimating the positive impact that Rene is having on his footfall. I saw everyone's mood lifted by Rene's presence and customer's smiling from ear to ear when he allowed them a brief stroke, or when he chose to visit their table.
Pictured above: De Dingen in the evening. Rene's suitcase is just visible to the left of the picture
De Dingen is NOT a "cat cafe". It is a well established, popular cafe, that offers a chilled out eating, drinking and relaxing environment. The owner happens to have a cat that chooses to spend his days in the cafe. To me that feels like an excellent balance and relationship between "cat" and "cafe". If you are in the area, maybe visiting World War battlefields, De Dingen in Kortrijk, and Rene, are well worth a diversion.
Ambience & Welcome 5/5
Location: Budastraat 12, Kortrijk 8500, Belgium
Links to Further Reading: