Beijing TV doesn’t air re-runs of Friends, the sitcom revolving around six zany friends living in Manhattan, but that has not stopped Beijing audiences from going wild over it. Need proof? Just head over to Central Perk, the Friends-themed café in Chaowai SOHO.
Beijing’s Central Perk boasts an interior that’s been painstakingly arranged and decorated to mirror the one in the sitcom, right down the chalkboard menu and the famous orange couch. It even features its very own Gunther, who also happens to be the café’s founder.
“After I first saw the TV show, I dreamed of opening a coffee shop just like Central Perk. I hoped it would attract others who also enjoy watching Friends... who would come and sit on the couch,” he says.
His dream came true in 2010 and business has been booming since. During our recent visit, the couch was never empty. Upon it, people giggled and chatted while watching episodes so old that Jennifer Aniston still sported the famously layered “Rachel” cut.
Speaking of Rachel, every waitress in the café is named Rachel. But, in a departure from the sitcom, Gunther insists he is not in love with all of these Rachels. In fact, he is more of a Phoebe man, so much so that he even organized a Christmastime open mic night in hopes of attracting a lot of Phoebes. “Ignore others. Sing for yourself. We are crazy about Phoebe,” he says.
So will Gunther be bringing any more fictional eateries? Perhaps The Royal Diner from Bones?
“No,” says Gunther. “Friends is my life.”