When I found out there was a Central Perk in Beijing, I absolutely had to visit it immediately. I’m a huge fan of Friends, and used to watch the reruns over and over. The coffee shop is also only two subway stops from my house, and it’s located among plenty of restaurants and shops in the Chaowai Soho complex.
The place is smaller than you’d imagine, but I’ve been there twice now, and the day of the week you visit makes all the difference. The first time we visited was during the week, and the place was empty. We sat ourselves down on the Friends couch, and relaxed for a couple of hours while watching episodes on the TV.
I never would have expected such an American show to be so popular here, but it turns out that Friends represents exactly what most twenty-something Chinese want their lives to be like.
It’s no picnic being Chinese and dealing with the constant pressure to get ahead in their career, have a child, and earn enough money to support their parents, and many of them fantasise about living the laid-back lives of Rachel and Joey.
The coffee is good here, and they have decent cupcakes as well, each named after one of the cast. The Rachel (red velvet) and Chandler (chocolate and vanilla) are my favourites, and the prices are reasonable as well. The staff also speak perfect English, and if you go when it’s not too busy you’ll receive excellent service.
Because we went mid-week, we thought we’d found the best-kept secret in Beijing. However when we went back on a weekend we were in for a surprise since the place was completely packed. There were no seats left, so we hung out next door in Joey and Chandlers apartment while we waited.
Here’s the address, for those thinking of visiting and watching a few episodes of Friends over coffee:
Central Perk, Chaowai SOHO, 6 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Building A, Suite 0616. 朝阳门外大街,朝外SOHO,A区0616室.
It can be kind of hard to find this place. Your best bet is to take line 10 to Jintaixizhao, go through the mall and out the other side, cross the road, and take the first left. Then you’ll come to the Soho buildings, so head into building A, and on the left side you’ll find the elevators that go to the sixth floor. Once you exit the elevator it’ll look like you’re in an office building, but simply follow the hall around, and you’ll come to Central Perk.
If you’re in Beijing for longer than a few days, and you’re looking for somewhere fun to relax, I definitely recommend Central Perk. Don’t forget to try the cupcakes!