Rebelle, Chef Stefan Bowers’ highly anticipated, up-scale restaurant in the newly renovated The St. Anthony Hotel, is “about bold flavors, strong drinks, and a swanky, sexy atmosphere to have a good night in,” he said.
Rebelle celebrates its grand opening Wednesday night at the historic hotel at 300 East Travis St. The Rivard Report caught up with Bowers as he walked through the softly-lighted space on Tuesday, watching as restaurant and hotel staff applied the finishing touches. Rebelle’s name comes the French spelling of “rebel,” which hints at the restaurant’s emphasis on French-style cooking and the historic roots of the St. Anthony Hotel.
“The founders of the hotel were Mavericks, essentially, very free-spirited guys, who built the hotel out here when it was all cattle ground,” Bowers said. “There’s really not a French, elegant style of cuisine downtown. We wanted to take a different approach that isn’t being done here, but at the same time we want to be familiar.”
Rebelle occupies what the former Madrid Room, a space previously used as a restaurant. The reincarnation can seat more than 200 guests.
“When it opened in the 1920s it was the spot, but then it just fell into neglect and disrepair over the years and was slowly overlooked,” he said.
Rebelle's dinner service will complement the hotel's in-house breakfast restaurant Loggia, located in the iconic Peacock Alley sunroom and the Haunt bar and lounge.
The design team behind Rebelle paid respect to the historic structure and character of the space while introducing modern elements. Most of the marbling, tables, and chairs is contemporary, while the room's molding, windows, and hardwood floors are period and connect visitors to the hotel's grandeur that dates back nearly a century.
“(Almost) all the chandeliers in here were made around the 1920s and were part of the hotel," Bowers said. "When you look up as you’re dining it looks amazing.”
The ideas behind Rebelle’s look, feel, and taste were inspired by Feast, Andrew Goodman's destination Southtown restaurant that opened in 2011 with Bowers as chef.
“The gentleman that ran BC Lynd Hospitality (which owns the St. Anthony Hotel) would come to Feast when we first opened," said Bowers, who is still executive chef at Feast. "They liked the program, the food, and the way we served everything. (BC Lynd) had just purchased the St. Anthony and they wanted the concept and the style of food from Feast in the room they were refurbishing.”
The St. Anthony Hotel's $24 million renovation began in May 2013 and the hotel's return to grandeur has elevated it to inclusion in the international Starwood Luxury Collection. The San Antonio-based hospitality company partnered with Goodman and decided to bring the Madrid Room back to life with Bowers at the culinary helm.
The decor of Rebelle is a strong homage to Feast – most notably its subdued, dark blue lighting scheme. White geometric shapes and surfaces, clear plastic "ghost" chairs used for seating inside, and artistic flourishes can be found at both restaurants.
“We love the ghost chairs because they allow the area to look more spacious,” Bowers explained. “If you had flat-back chairs it would be so crowded-looking.”
A framed print of Salvador Dalí’s “The Temptation of St. Anthony” looms over the seating area near Rebelle's main entrance.
The hot and cold categories on the menu are meant for sharing, and there are larger dishes available as well. Bowers described the approach as a shared entrée program that also caters to the more conventional out-of-town diner.
“It’s definitely a higher-end menu. We have steak cuts, larger protein portions, lobster, foie grass, and sea bass ... things we couldn’t really sell at Feast because it’s more on a casual scale there,” he said.
At Rebelle, Bowers intends to create great food in a more formal setting than Feast, but one that avoids being stuffy. The majority of ingredients are regionally if not locally sourced.
“I can’t escape a California-style of cooking since it’s where I come from, but mainly there is a nod to French-influenced cooking," Bowers said. “We have goat products from Windy Hill Farms, as well as South Texas Heritage Pork."
The cocktail menu is based on the seven temptations—pride, lust, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, and gluttony—and the wine menu is headlined as "Earthly Delights."
Ultimately, he wants his customers to leave Rebelle’s dining room knowing they've had a one-of-a-kind experience.
“I want them to feel that the flavors they get here are personal and not generic, that the food they got here is singular to here, and they can’t get it anywhere else,” Bowers said.
Starting Wednesday night, Rebelle will be open Monday-Thursday, 5 p.m.- 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 5pm-11pm
The St. Anthony Hotel has already opened for reservations this summer, but there will be an official grand opening celebration for media and VIP guests on Thursday, Nov. 19.
This story was originally published on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015.
*Top image: The front dining room at Rebelle. Photo by Scott Ball.