Friends' Central Perk café finally a reality

Through 18 October fans of the hit TV series can sit and sip on the famous orange couch at a pop up created to celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary.

Few fans of the Friends television show may have dared to dream that one day they would sit and sip on the famous orange couch at Central Perk, the coffeehouse where the character Rachel worked at the start of this culturally defining show. But through 18 October in New York City, devotees will have the opportunity to do just that – with free coffee, no less – at the Central Perk pop-up created by Warner Bros and Eight O’Clock Coffee to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show's premiere.

Operating in trendy Soho, about a mile east of the West Village, where Central Perk was supposedly located on the show, the coffee shop features the official couch from the Friends set (get there early to nab a seat), as well as the original neon signage and ornate espresso maker. With its bright lights and colour palette, the set has been replicated so closely that James Michael Tyler, who played the barista Gunther, said he found it surreal to be there.

“I walked in yesterday morning and I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is really a little too close,’ and it started flooding back all of the memories,” he said. “And the smell of coffee… It brought me back, and I had my white hair for the first time in 10 years.” Tyler had bleached his medium-brown hair every week for the show's 10-year run.

Tyler will be making special appearances throughout the pop up's life, but the dates have not been announced. There will also be weekly in-store performances in homage to Phoebe’s well-known “Smelly Cat” tune, in addition to frequent contests and giveaways. 

The space itself is a mini-museum. There’s a costume section with Phoebe’s polka-dot suede jacket, among others, that also includes Joey’s Pat the Dog statue and Phoebe’s guitar. A glass-encased display showcases detailed props such as Ross’ Freebie List, Rachel’s sonogram and Monica and Chandler’s wedding invitation and rings.

Fans who can’t make a pilgrimage to New York City can view – but not enter – the Central Perk set on the Warner Bros VIP Studio Tour in Los Angeles. Or fans can go to the other two permanent, official Central Perks in England: Liverpool opened in April 2012 and Chester in April 2013. Entrepreneur and superfan Du Xin opened a Central Perk in Beijing in 2010 on the sixth floor of an apartment building and also made a replica of Joey’s apartment. The coffee shop was such a success that Xin opened a second café in Shanghai in 2012.