Be it Hugsy - the penguin or smelly cats, the very own Central Perk café of Kashmir will surely give you the vibes of being in a real one which appeared in every episode of the most popular American sitcoms, Friends.
Taking the Friends obsession to another level, an entrepreneur couple Afra and Faheem started the café in Srinagar three months back.
“Friends wouldn’t be Friendswithout Central Perk café, the place where the characters Monica, Rachel, Chandler, Joey and Ross used to sit on the iconic orange couch and share their highs and lows,” said Afra who is an MBA graduate.
The idea of having the Friendstheme came to Afra during the period of lockdown post article 370 abrogation when she discovered the drama from her hard disk. Enjoying it while watching, she immediately decided to have the café with the same theme.
“We started the construction work in 2019 and this year we opened it to the public. The idea took a huge time to come to reality because of the pandemic and other reasons but finally we are rolling and it’s been just three months, we are getting huge love and support from people,” she said.
The designing of the café was handled by Afra while the construction process was looked after by her husband, Faheem who is an engineer by profession.
The café has been receiving the footfall not only from the Friendslover but also others who just enjoy the food and ambience.
The place offers all the souvenirs which the Friendsfans can relate to. The orange couch, Monica apartment's purple door, Joey’s stuffed toy and his bedtime pal, Hugsy- The Penguin. One can find theme-based merchandise including photo frames, cushion covers, keychains, bookmarks and much more which can be purchased.
Hugsy is the important part of the sitcom whom Joey is obsessed with and a center of attraction of the cafe. While talking about the struggle of gathering the themed interior for the café, Afra said, “I was supposed to get the bigger one but every time I ordered, it used to come with something missing either the jacket was not there or the cap. We are adding more things in the café to give the perfect feel to people.”
The famous turkey with hat and glasses which was worn by Monica in one of the episodes, is in the list of upcoming add-ons. Also, Monica's room will be constructed next year where most of the time the friends would meet.
The café is situated in Habak, Naseem Bagh area of Srinagar and people suggested to the owners that it may not be able to get many customers due to its location but since the café came into being, the response has been overwhelming.
“This place is a little distant. In this area, there was no café and one would often have a tough time finding a decent café. The theme attracted people to come to a distant place. Many people told us that this is not going to work but we have customers coming from the places which have a number of cafes around,” she said while adding the café has been visited by many tourists as well.
In the menu, the café serves Central Perk Special food with the name of the characters with each dish. Monica’s salad, Ross’s sandwich, Joey’s Special Pizza, Friends Fried Ice Cream which is the specialty of the café and other dishes.
“We have theme-based food too. There will be Gunther cold groove also which is named after the character, Gunther who played the role of a waiter in Central Perk Café,” she added.
She further said that every food item has some memory of the scene attached to it. The story behind the Ross’s sandwich is the hilarious scene of one of the episodes where Ross was heartbroken when someone in his office ate his favorite thanksgiving sandwich.
“We don’t keep frozen food here. We tell customers to wait for 30-35 minutes but we serve them fresh. Even the pizzas and sauces are fresh. Frozen food comes with a lot of preservatives. People give us love so we want to serve them fresh,” she said.
She further said that they have the official Friends cookbook and are trying to add on the dishes to make it a true Central Perk café.
Faheem said, “Our priority is to retain it and then to expand it. If we get the same love, we will definitely expand it to other places.”