The original Monkey Bar, which occupied the same space on east 54th street in New York City as the new, renovated incarnation, opened in 1932. Back then, it was frequented by such luminaries of New York City’s upper social echelons as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and Fred Astaire; these personalities and others are featured in the mural by Edward Sorel which covers the back wall of the new one.
The painting was commissioned by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, one of the owners of this revamped Monkey Bar (the others are hotelier Jeff Klein and British restaurateur Jeremy King) and a veteran of the semiprivate dining experience—his other venture, The Waverly Inn in the West Village, has been proudly denying hungry diners entry since 2006 (it too features a mural by Sorel).
The dimly lit, preposterously romantic space—outfitted with deep, salubrious banquettes and the odd zebra-skin rug—is as equally difficult to gain entry to as the Inn, but this is Manhattan and such games (limiting customers to a pre fixe time frame; not picking up the phone at all) are par for the course. Once inside, patrons have a straightforward and well-executed menu to choose from (put together by chef Larry Forgione), but people come here, and stay, for the company.
At Monkey Bar, if it looks like Richard Meier at the next table, it probably is. Larry Forgione acts as Executive Chef, serving high-end comfort food dishes such as Oysters Rockefeller, Nora’s Meatloaf and Sticky Toffee Pudding.