The 1966 building by architect Marcel Breuer formerly housed the Whitney Museum. It reopened in March 2016 after undergoing a subtle renovation by Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB), a local firm known for its work on historic buildings.
The design of the restaurant is intended to honour Breuer's vision, much like the refurbishment of the rest of the museum.
"The restoration was approached as Breuer himself would have, carefully preserving the authentic patina of ageing materials and allowing visitors to understand and appreciate the building's evolution over time," said BBB of the overall project.
The architects designed the dining venue in collaboration with the operators, restaurateur Thomas Carter and chef Ignacio Mattos. The duo are the partners behind Café Altro Paradiso and Estela – popular eateries in the lower half of Manhattan.
"Flora Bar brings the downtown culture of the team's previous projects to architect Marcel Breuer's historic Upper East Side building," the team said, adding that the new space is "lively, approachable and ideal for both a sit-down dinner or a cocktail".
The designers retained the room's original concrete walls and columns, while incorporating decor made of blackened steel, bronze, walnut and marble. The ceiling is lined with Breuer's original disc-shaped luminaries.
A concrete stairway leads down to the venue, where visitors first encounter the coffee bar and a host stand made of wood and marble.
They then pass into the main eating area, where a second bar flanks one side of the room and dining tables line the other.
Original double-height windows overlook a landscaped courtyard with seating. The sounds of passers-by on Madison Avenue drift down into the sunken courtyard.
The team used White Mountain Danby marble – known for its grey diagonal veins – to fabricate bar tops and tables.
Brooklyn-based designer Steven Bukowski created custom round stools made of wood and blackened steel for the coffee area, and tall chairs fashioned of blackened steel and leather for the main bar.
Throughout the space, the team placed metal shelving racks that accommodate glassware and bottles of wine.
Special details include a painting by artist Junglin Lee and weekly floral bouquets by local studio Asphodel.
The space has a dedicated entrance on 75th Street, enabling it to operate after museum hours. An obelisk-shaped, bronze signpost was conceived by New York designer David Sullivan.
The restaurant offers an eclectic menu, ranging from paella and steak au poivre to kampachi crudo – a type of raw fish – with plum and onion. The wine list includes offerings from local farms.
Photography is by Glen Allsop.