The Central Perk Cafe From “Friends” Is Real (In China)

By Zachary Carlsen

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On the sixth floor of an apartment complex in Beijing there is a replica Central Perk, the cafe hangout space from the television series Friends, a popular sitcom that ran from 1994 to 2004 on NBC. It’s so successful the proprietor has opened a second location in Shanghai. Its owner, an avid Friends fan, even kind of looks like Gunther, Central Perk’s manager on the show.

Owner Du Xin (left) and Gunther (right). (npr.com)

In the series, Central Perk served as the meeting space for the six leads. In earlier seasons, Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) worked there while roommate Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) played occasional acoustic guitar sets. In a slice of New York realism, struggling actor Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) even pulled a few shifts in season six.

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The replica cafe only serves food that’s been mentioned in the series itself, which is pretty incredible. NPR has more:

For instance, the menu informs anyone ordering cheesecake that it was — in season 7, episode 11 — the subject of Rachel’s exclamation to Chandler (played by Matthew Perry): “You stole this cheesecake. That is wrong!”

The cafe airs re-runs of the series, which according to NPR’s All Things Considered, serve as a language-learning tool:

Reruns of the show serve as a language-learning tool for Chinese university students. The show is particularly popular for its use of colloquial language and as an introduction to American culture. It’s also popular because of the laid-back, friendship-filled lifestyle it portrays, far from the stressful, competitive world that Chinese young people inhabit.“That’s why we like Friends,” says Du. “We’re looking for this kind of life.”

On travel website TripAdvisor, the cafe has a solid four star rating. Reviewer CanadianHockey91 found the cafe hard to find, but declared it to be “small but nice and the food is decent. It is VERY hard to find so if you are looking for it be careful. Google maps has it in the wrong location. Once you get to Chawai SOHO go to the 6th floor A-building and wander.”

Another reviewer, TravelinMan7777, wasn’t impressed with the cafe’s food or drinks. “So I went and average is what I got. The atmosphere was good..people inside were very into themselves. The waitresses need to learn about customer service and to smile. The owner needs to not hit on the waitresses and hit on the women in the restaurant.

It seems fair to estimate that the quality of the products at the Central Perk on the sitcom Friends was average, so one might argue that the proprietor is simply being consistent with his commitment to authenticity. And Gunther totally hit on Rachel like all the time.

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Central Perk, located at 616, Bldg A, Chaowai SOHO | CBD, Chaoyang Distrtict, Beijing, China.

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