A signature of Bonhomme Hospitality, the group of restaurants behind Porto and Beatnik, among others, is its elaborately designed interiors, filled with antiques, imported tiles, and intricate lighting fixtures, all intended to make customers feel like they’ve traveled to another time and place without the hassles of an airplane or The TARDIS.
This year, Bonhomme is expanding to two new restaurants in the West Loop with the goal of evoking Paris and Marco Polo’s Silk Road, a club inspired by Led Zeppelin’s song “Kashmir” (which in turn was inspired by a trip the band took to Morocco in the 1970s), plus – in A logical move, given the group’s interest in travel and culture – a Galicia-inspired hotel in northwest Spain called The Beatnik Hotel. Both restaurants are on track to open in late summer, while the club will be ready by the holidays. The hotel opened on Wednesday 1 June.
“It’s a busy year,” says Bonhomme founder Daniel Alonso. “But these are all self-inflicted wounds.”
The two restaurants, Bambola and Coquette, will share the address, 1400 W. Randolph Street, but each will have its own entrance and kitchen. Bambola, the larger of the two, has an Italian name — meaning “doll” — but apart from that, says Alonso, nothing will be very Italian.
“It is inspired by East-Meet-West,” he says, “Italy to Xanadu, Marco Polo’s Silk Road romance.” The menu will feature dishes and cooking techniques that travel back and forth along this ancient trade route, especially rice and noodles, with an emphasis on Turkish and Persian cuisines, although they may travel as far away as Thailand and Vietnam. There will be an open plan kitchen with wood and charcoal ovens, as well as a Mangal grill for cooking kebabs.
The 7,000-square-foot space will seat 175 people and be filled with a mixture of contemporary Italian furniture and Asian antiques (Alonso has been stocking it for the past 18 months) with elaborate flooring imported from Popham Design in Marrakech, Morocco. Alonso envisions a space filled with mustard, red, brown, and blue with a contrast between the rich fabrics of the furniture, wooden tables, and tile pattern.
Coquette, like his name, will be French. Alonso describes it as “Parisian elegance meets provincial splendor.” Erwin Mallet, head chef of the Michelin-starred Porto, will lead the kitchen and serve up an array of classic French dishes cooked over wood and charcoal. In terms of style, it will be the opposite of Bambola: pink, white and compact, with seating for 46 people.
Finally, there’s Kashmir, which will open across the street in late 2022. Alonso describes it as a continuation of Bourdelle, Bonhomme’s Ukrainian Village bar and cabaret, but it’s bigger and more ambitious. There will be a curated list of performers: jazz musicians, flamenco dancers, comic artists, cabaret singers, and magicians. Alonso imagines the teams in Bordel and Kashmir will work closely together to promote new and established talent.
He says Alonso’s goal for Bonhomme has always been to give customers the experience of traveling without the actual travel. But while a restaurant meal only takes three hours at most, the hotel will be an all-inclusive experience. The Beatnik will feature restaurants, of course, as well as a pool, spa, yoga and tai chi studio, and seven acres of land, including a vineyard run by Alonso’s brother. Guests can choose between staying indoors in suites, in luxury tents, or in luxury tents. The hotel is 20 minutes from Santiago de Compostela, a city that has been a destination for Catholic pilgrims since the Middle Ages (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but the nice thing about Galicia, says Alonso, is that it wasn’t. Overtaken by tourists – until now.
“Even in high season, you feel like you’re surrounded by locals and other Spaniards,” he says. Should know: His family is from Galicia, and he grew up traveling back and forth between there and Chicago. The area is famous for its seafood. It is the source of much of the fish that Alonso serves in Porto. “The countryside is wonderful,” he continues. “Beaches are beautiful. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world falls in love with her.”
Meanwhile, Alonso is excited about all the openings, despite realizing that two restaurants, a bar and one hotel are an insane workload. He predicts a quieter year 2023. “After that, I will be institutionalized by my team.”
Bambola and Coquette, 1400 W. Randolph Street, opening late summer 2022. Kashmir, 1436 W. Randolph Street, opening late 2022.