The celebrated restaurant Eleven Madison Park, which holds three Michelin stars and is currently considered the world’s best restaurant, reopened on October 8 following a months-long renovation and redesign.
The soaring art deco space, once the lobby of the landmark Metropolitan Life building, had been originally envisioned as a brasserie when it first opened as a restaurant in 1998. The slightly garish decor no longer suited what has, under Chef Daniel Humm, become the epitome of fine-dining destinations. It was time to reimagine the restaurant entirely.
So its owners, Will Guidara and chef Humm (who together bought the restaurant from Danny Meyer in 2011), approached one of their regulars: Brad Cloepfil, the principal of NYC-based architecture firm Allied Works. “This dining room has been our home for the last 11 years; we have grown up within its walls, and have a very special and emotional connection to it,” Guidara says in a prepared statement. “So when Daniel and I recognized that it was time to update its design, it was important that we selected an architect who brought an incredible aesthetic and differing perspective, but also one who loved the room as much as we did.”
A close collaboration ensued. The aim was to preserve the character of the historic space while updating it with a contemporary feel, according to Cloepfil. “We want to keep the liveliness and energy of the old space but modernize it,” Humm told Architectural Digest. “It couldn’t be such a departure for us that we wouldn’t recognize it anymore. That’s the spirit of this renovation.”
Cloepfil drew inspiration, he says, from Madison Square Park, just across the street. Working with a muted palette of off-white and taupe and indigo, Cloepfil and his team reimagined every aspect of the restaurant’s interior. Allied Works is responsible for all elements of the redesign, encompassing everything from the tables and chairs down to the flatware and china—which, says Cloepfil, is intentionally spare, intended as “a canvas awaiting the artistry of Chef Humm.”
New fabric banquettes line the walls; the floor now features area rugs with patterns inspired by wet leaves on the sidewalk of the park across the way. The overall effect is much softer, more elegant and refined; spare yet lushly textured.
The new focal point of the main dining space is a large-scale work in tones of blue by Hungarian painter Rita Ackermann. It, too, is said to have been inspired by Madison Square Park, though her interpretation is decidedly abstract.
Perhaps the most notable changes are those to the bar area, where the bar itself has been shortened and moved to the far end of the room, with less seating. More low-top tables, meanwhile, have been added for diners. The ceiling now glows with gold leaf.
The redesign makes the space more appealing to diners, to be sure—more appropriate for a fine-dining experience. But ultimately, the renovation was for Humm and Guidara. For the first time in the eleven years since both men came to Eleven Madison Park, the restaurant is finally their own design.