I truly believe that anyone my age will still happily sit and watch any episode of Friends again and again and easily be able to quote most of the episodes off by heart. Who didn’t like Friends? It’s hard to believe that the series finished in 2004 as it honestly still feels like yesterday when we were watching Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross every Friday night.
Fast forward to the last few months when I discovered that a Friends super fan in China who calls himself Gunther has actually recreated Central Perk in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Thankfully I am lucky enough to be able to visit Shanghai frequently so I made my plans to go to “The Friends Cafe” as is it called on my next visit.
I had read many blogs online saying that the cafe was very difficult to find and that Google maps showed the wrong location for it so one morning I set off armed with both Google Maps and Apple Maps and even a screencap showing the Instagram location. I had even noticed what the buildings opposite it looked like in a photo to try and make finding it easier. I should not have worried as I found the cafe immediately – it was not difficult to find at all. If you type “160 Haerbin Road” into Google Maps you will get the correct location.
To get to the Friends Cafe which is located in the Hongkou district of the city, you will need to take the Shanghai Metro to Hailun Road on Line 10 which is only three stops away from East Nanjing Road station. Once there, you will need to leave the station from Exit 3.
After leaving Hailun Road station, turn left and walk along Siping Road before crossing Hailun Road which is opposite the Sheraton Hotel. You will then need to take the next left onto Xinjia Road and follow the road down until you reach the bridge which crosses the canal. Take a right here into Harbin Road and the cafe is located just on the left where the red awnings are.
The only sign outside the building is a small plaque on the wall saying “The Friends Cafe”. I arrived at the cafe just before 11:00am which I had read online was the opening time however it was already open.
Just inside the door from the street you find the sidewalk outside Central Perk along with tables where you could sit “outside” – it really was brilliant to see. On the actual door into Central Perk is a sign saying “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You are gonna love it.” Could this place be any more perfect as Chandler would say?!
When I walked into Central Perk I was the only one there so naturally I went and sat on the orange sofa just like they would on the show when it was always empty no matter how busy it was. All the details around me were perfect including the lit up service sign hanging from the ceiling and the menu board on the wall which looked to be word perfect from the show. As it was empty, I was able to get some great photos without anyone in them.
I decided to order a Rachel cupcake (which was Red Velvet) and a latte – they did not have any soy milk but once again, I made the sacrifice as I had to order a coffee as I was in Central Perk. You could also order pizzas, burgers, salads and other snacks but I decided against these as I was going to be eating lunch elsewhere.
My Rachel cupcake was delicious – the frosting was so light and it reminded me of the vanilla cupcakes that I love from Cove Cafe on Disney Cruise Line. My latte arrived with some beautiful rose latte art in a cow print mug which just made me think of Joey talking about a cow’s opinion (it just doesn’t matter, it’s moo!)
However one of the best thing about the cafe being empty was that I got Hugsy (Joey’s bedtime penguin pal if you have no idea who Hugsy is) all to myself the whole time I was there enabling me to take even more photos than I usually do.
Despite visiting the cafe by myself, it was so easy just to sit there as they play episodes of Friends all day long. I think I watched about three episodes whilst I was there. I’ve read that a lot of Chinese watch Friends to help them learn English.
There was also free wifi available – I’d read online that the password was “iloverachel” and it turned out to be true. The cafe also has it’s own “Smelly Cat” which when it isn’t sitting by the window occasionally peeks at you from behind the sofa – it was not smelly at all though.
Altogether I spent 57RMB which worked out to about £6 – probably my cheapest visit to a themed cafe and definitely one of my favourites and a great way to spend a few hours.
I cannot wait to go back!