It always disappointed me that Central Perk, where the cast of Friends spent their days exchanging gossip and sharing angst, wasn’t a place I could one day visit in New York, like Tom’s Restaurant in Seinfeld or The Coffee Shop in Sex and the City. The spot where Rachel got her first post-Barry, pre-Bloomingdales job, where Phoebe subjected us to Smelly Cat, where Joey gave cute girls free muffins when he was in between gigs, although situated in the Big Apple, was a creation that existed only on a sound stage in Burbank, California.
Until now. A pop-up Central Perk has been set-up in Soho, New York, to celebrate the hit show’s 20th anniversary. It offers free coffee, the chance to see Pat the Dog in real life and to sit on that famous velvet worn-in orange couch, and picture rolling your eyes at one of Ross’ inane dinosaur facts or laughing at Chandler “could I be any more funny” Bing.
It’s taken 2 decades but I finally got the chance to sit on that couch – that sofa – and hold a cup in my hands, feeling the velvet beneath me where so many of the classic lines were delivered by Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, Joey and Ross.
Of course one can’t forget Gunther, the barista who was smitten with Rachel. James Michael Tyler has died his hair bleach-blonde again for the 20th anniversary, and he says it’s been surreal to see the set with the old props come to life again.
He also confessed that he never made a single cup of coffee while on the set – because it would have made too much noise – and the dyed hair was a last-minute thing he did before he went off for the audition to play Gunther, which, at the time, was only meant to be a few-episode arc. Not bad, 10 seasons later!
The Friends Pop-up is located at 199 Lafayette Street, from 17 September to the 18 October,
Mondays – Fridays, 8am – 8pm, and Saturdays – Sundays 10am – 8pm.