Matthew Perry: 'I visited London's own Friends-style cafe - where the Chandler Bing actor is much missed'

How London's Friends cafe has been a hit - and could have instead had an Only Fools and Horses theme.
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It's hard to overstate the wide influence in pop culture of the sitcom Friends, but for one south London business the inspiration is very clear.

Following the death of Matthew Perry, we visited Bexleyheath's Central Park cafe - which takes its cue from Central Perk.

Stepping inside, it felt like the beloved TV show truly came to life - kind of - and I had the pleasure of meeting the owner Darren, whose passion for Friends and his vision for his cafe are evident.

"Me and my partner are pretty big Friends fans, and thought we’d like to have a theme with it," he said. "Though I’m a pretty big Only Fools and Horses fan, it might be a bit too outdated to be relatable to the majority of people. Friends, on the other hand, appeals to absolutely everyone of all ages.”

The cafe is in its fourth month in Station Approach and Darren said it has been "hectic".

"I didn’t think it would be so busy, but also to take into account Matthew Perry’s passing," he said. "It’s been non stop.”

He continued: "The menu is designed so that it’s also character themed - eg Joey’s Italian pizzas, Marcel’s smoothies, Fun Bobby’s drinks etc. We’ve put in a lot of thought for the design of the cafe. We had to have the sofa made and a Geller Cup, and as you can see around, we’ve got Friends memorabilia.”

Despite the Friends theme, Darren said it remains a station cafe, with regulars coming in every morning for a coffee or for lunch.

"However, we’ve also had so many people from all places to visit," said Darren. "Since it’s been so busy, we’ve also done package afternoon brunches, and even with that, we’ve been fully booked. Yet, we’ve kept our prices the same.”

And are there plans to grow the business? Darren said: "Since we’ve been so busy, it could be a plan to expand in the future, potentially a Friends Universe-type restaurant in central London, where you’ll have rooms with a character theme also. For example, Monica’s flat, Joey, Chandler’s flat, the Central Perk Coffee shop. But we’ve only been open for four months, so probably a conversation in the future, when we get there.”

Central Park is at 4 Station Approach, Bexleyheath, DA7 4QP and reservations can be made online.