Fans of the US sitcom “Friends” have been flocking to the newly opened Central Perk cafe in Jeddah modeled on the TV hangout of the show’s main characters.
“Friends,” seen on US television from 1994 to 2004, won dozens of awards and garnered global celebrity for Jennifer Aniston and her co-stars. The final episode of “Friends” was broadcast in May 2004 and was reportedly watched by more than 52 million viewers.
Owned by Thoraya Aziz and Nawaf Hashem, the establishment in the Red Sea port city was five years in the planning before its highly anticipated opening to the public on the second day of Eid Al-Fitr.
But, according to marketing agent Bashair Abufarea, the Jeddah version of the coffee shop is not an exact mirror image of its American counterpart.
Customers are greeted by the words “The One Where F.R.I.E.N.D.S Meet” written on the counter, and the iconic orange couch, coffee table, and rug from the series, along with the cafe’s red-brick walls complete the look.
Abufarea said: “What we tried to do when designing the cafe was to take all the 10 seasons of the show and put them in one place.”
The upstairs area contains a replica of the foosball table from the apartment of “Friends” characters Joey and Chandler, while Monica’s kitchen and round table also feature with detail including matching dishes on the kitchen racks, yellow window curtain, and a strategically placed pack of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips relating to a memorable episode.
Artwork displayed on the cafe walls has been donated by fans of the show from throughout Jeddah. Aziz, a painter herself, said: “I tried to add a variety of art to the place by holding an art competition.”
Abufarea added: “The cafe is run by a family and two very involved people, and the recipes for the drinks are created by Hashem himself, and his father is always on his side.
“Aziz has her art all over the place, and her interior design skills are evident around the cafe. So, visitors can feel the love in the place.”
One of the challenges in opening the cafe involved copyright issues, but these were eventually overcome. “Our opening was delayed as well, but I think every delay has a reason. On the opening day we did not expect there to be so many people,” Abufarea said.
Feedback from customers has so far been mostly positive. One fan who flew from Riyadh specially to visit Central Perk shed tears of joy on seeing the remake of Monica’s kitchen.
“Seeing her reaction made the whole effort worth it, because a lot of the time we were receiving criticism on the smallest things. So, this made our day,” Abufarea added.
Aziz said: “We didn’t want it to be a place where people just ate and drank coffee. I want it to be a place where they have fun and that is the point of activities.”
The couple have plans to open a restaurant in the upstairs section of the cafe serving American cuisine alongside Italian dishes to reflect Joey’s background.