Why We Love the Monkey Bar at the Hotel ElyseePublished: November 21st, 2014
The storied Monkey Bar located just off Hotel Elysee’s lobby is a must do for anyone visiting New York. In its current incarnation, both the bar and restaurant play off their infamous histories to the delight of all who enter. Once inside you immediately feel that old New York vibe, which is a rarity in Midtown these days…
It is essential to visit Midtown locales like the Monkey Bar and the 21 Club to experience New York in its heyday, during a more civilized era of fine dining and entertainment. The Monkey Bar’s walls sing with the voices of its past; the voices of Tallulah Bankhead, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe, Tennessee Williams, John and Ethel Barrymore just to name a few. In the late 1920’s until mid century, the Hotel Elysée became a refuge for the glitterati arriving from the Old Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal to debut their plays, movies and books. Before the jet age, all had to travel to New York via rail so stays in the city were measured in weeks not days. The Monkey Bar with its envious position between legendary New York hotspots, El Morocco and the Stork Club, became the way station where information on the whereabouts of the who’s who was exchanged. Imbibing the likes of Old Fashioneds, Martinis and Champagne Cocktails, the Monkey Bar’s sophisticated clientele enjoyed a level of service unknown today, where discreet waiters winked or offered wry smiles instead of texts to the New York Post’s Page Six when hearing the latest gossip or rumor. Still to this day you can feel their presence, ghosts of a bygone age who have left their imprint on the establishment.
Arrive with friends, family or alone. Your visit to the Bar won’t disappoint. Let your imagination loose and try to picture yourself ensconced with the likes of Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Sidney Poitier, James Clavell and Dame Margot Fonteyn, listening to the off color jokes and songs performed by Johnny Payne or Mel Martin. Revel in an old classic, like a Manhattan or be adventurous and order a seasonal specialty like the Southland Fizz made with Reposado tequila, St. Germaine, mulled cider, cinnamon and lemon. Choose a savory appetizer from the bar menu, like the Corn and Truffle Fritters, Crispy Oysters or Pigs in a Blanket. Yes, you heard right, Pigs in a Blanket! The ambiance at the bar is electric, the crowd eclectic. The Monkey Bar is the perfect spot to gather yourselves before you head out for the theatre, dinner, dancing or sightseeing. Beginning at 5:00pm, it fills with a stately after work crowd and those waiting for tables in the restaurant. It is equally welcoming at the end of the night, the perfect place to wind down after an eventful evening on the town. Have a nightcap and revel in your evening’s adventures before you head to sleep. It is at this time, when the Monkey Bar is at its finest and often quietest, my favorite time.
Choosing the Monkey Bar for lunch or dinner will transport you into the company of movie stars and writers, from a bygone era. One only need study the famous mural by Edward Sorel which serves as a reflection of old New York. Seating is comfortable, especially if you are lucky enough to get hold of one of the nine red leather horseshoe banquets, whose views are stunning. Menu choices are varied and the restaurant offers daily specials that won’t fail to pique your interest. You can’t go wrong with their seafood; the fish is always fresh and served properly. Favorites are the Halibut and Salmon. The Crab Cakes with remoulade sauce and the Yellowfin Tuna with mango and radishes are sublime. There are a variety of salads, the most remarkable is their Wedge Salad, served with cherry tomatoes, taggiasca olives, blue cheese and dressed with green goddess dressing. Meat choices include a Hampshire Pork Chop with plum jam and pork jus and their Roasted Chicken, served with Rosemary potatoes, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and natural chicken jus. For lunch the delectable Lobster Roll is hard to resist and is a current favorite.
To reserve a spot at the bar or restaurant, be sure to speak with Carol, she is the most charming and gracious Hostess. She will work tirelessly to see that you are accommodated. Of course, she gives preference to guests of the Elysée, as the hotel is afforded two tables nightly. If you are staying at another property, ask your concierge to contact Hotel Elysee on your behalf! Both venues are perfect for our guests who never need exit the hotel to enjoy themselves.
The Monkey Bar is open Monday – Friday from 11:30am – 1am and Saturdays from 5:30pm – 12am. It is closed on Sundays.
We would love to help! If you are interested on making any restaurant reservations or would like further recommendations, please feel free to contact our concierge team at the Hotel Elysee, Library Hotel, Casablanca Hotel, or Hotel Giraffe!