Good News/Bad News: Monkey Bar

Graydon Carter's revamp of the storied Monkey Bar (and it's third iteration) has been open to the public for a few weeks now—it was open for friends, family, and certain fat cats and celebs for several weeks prior. No huge surprises here: the decor is stunning, the lighting, perfection, the crowd, bold faced, and the food...meh. Most reviews so far focus more on who is dining—Salman Rushdie, Ron Perelman, Hugh Grant, Martha Stewart—than on what is being dined upon. That said, chef Elliot Ketley's fare does have its fans (we'd like to again bring your attention to the crucial chili). A look the early feedback:

The Preemptive Reservations: Commenters across the boards show concern about being able to attain reservations, citing the exclusivity of Waverly Inn. One Diner's Journal commenter says, "Although I’m fairly vain, if not vainly fair, I suspect I won’t find a place at The Monkey Bar, since I don’t belong to that heady claque of insiders and celebrities who will occupy every seat". [Diner's Journal]

The Ecstatic News: From the tipline: "Everything is really well executed. The front of house staff has been having really great reviews. The menu is simple and classic, like its Waldorf salad. Some people think it’s outdated but it is really good. They have the best fish and chips I’ve ever had, here or abroad. The meatloaf is great too. The split-level dining room is gorgeous. It’s great for groups. Gorgeous bar, very elegant, lots of silver.” [Eater Inbox]

The Good News: One Yelper is quite pleased with the new decor: "The front bar area was a nice space - think dark, secret rendez-vous meeting kinda space. The room has been changed in that instead of the old Monkey Bar which was a little sleeker & more modern, it seems they've made it into a more old school, blue-blood, moneyed kinda space: the wood is still dark, the walls are now painted gold w/these animal scenes (monkeys, of course, zebras, etc) with dark monkey sconce carvings. (Space seemed smaller to me too.) The back dining area is layed out as described at eater, and the back area is much brighter than the front." [Yelp]

The Encouraging News: Ruth Reichl tweets her thoughts on Monkey Bar: "Graydon Carter is one smart man. The Ivy is a great idea in London, and well tweaked it will work in New York." And later: "Martinis at midnight, foie gras fingers dipped in soft boiled eggs. Such a sexy restaurant." [Twitter]

The Almost Entirely Good News: How you take this review depends on your opinion of John DeLucie's food at the Waverly: "The lighting is perfect and everyone glows in soothing amber light. The servers are attired in snow white-vintage style waiter jackets and their professionalism is fine tuned and attentive. My only concern is that the noise level was a bit loud especially considering the restaurant was only about one third full. The acoustics in the room are very strong and I am wary over what it may be like with this place filled. Mr. Carter has hired Chef Elliott Ketley (Soho House, Le Caprice) to helm the kitchen and he puts out some of the best high-end comfort classic dishes I have tasted since..well..John DeLucie's menu at The Waverly Inn." [Yelp]

The Cuozzo Takedown: New York Post's Steve Cuozo gets in on the action. While the lighting is "flattering to a fault," the rest is a fail: "For a place supposedly trying to be more of a real restaurant than Waverly, the food shouldn't be this lousy. While Waverly Inn embraces mediocrity, Monkey sets its bar lower than at media-heaven." He cites three dishes which he enjoyed, including the cheeseburger, a beet salad and the "Chinatown Chicken" but..."most everything else on the English grill/country club-fusion menu betrayed a plodding, seasoning-averse kitchen and dubious raw materials. Hanger steak, ordinarily a most flavorful cut, looked great on the plate but had no flavor whatsoever. Ditto rack of lamb." [NY Post]

The Ok News: Per a tweet: ". Old school swanky martini scene. There's Hugh Grant! The food? Ok, no head rockets. But classic cool hot spot." And, presumably on the same night, Kate Krader checks in: "@monkey bar. Food lame. But hi hugh grant, penny Marshall,r Perelman, c rose." [Twitter]

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