Based on location alone, the two restaurants seem a world apart: Bonito on the sands of St. Barts; Betula flanked by snow-capped Aspen Mountain. Yet Aspen has long been compared to a secluded paradise in the Rockies, long frequented by beachgoers including owners Juan Carlos Perez Febres and chef Laurent Cantineaux. As with most Aspen stories, only under a perfect storm of circumstances did the partners find opportunity here: Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean in September 2017, forcing 9-year-old Bonito closed. During renovations that would require the better part of a year, Perez Febres and Cantineaux returned to Colorado, a state they visit often, and discovered treasure at last: bb’s, which sat dark on the second floor of East Cooper Avenue after a seven-year run.
Betula—named for the genus of silver birch trees as widespread in France as aspens in North America—has planted roots. Architect-turned-restaurateur Perez Febres revamped the 2,800-square-foot space as if designing a West End Victorian cottage for the modern era. The cozy interior smacks of sea breeze: white wainscoting and crown molding; gray and beige tones with touches of cornflower blue; brass lighting over cushy banquette and table seating.
Despite maintaining the same footprint, Betula seems airier, thanks to new skylights and sliding glass doors that open to the garden patio. Opposing sets of painted French doors allow guests reclining in the Living Room—formerly bb’s lounge, with a sofa-surrounded fireplace, plus private dining nook for 10—to gaze straight through a hallway to the kitchen at the restaurant’s far end. Tying it all together is rich Brazilian ipe hardwood inside and out, “the same weather-resistant floor you find everywhere in St. Barts,” Febres says.
Visitors to both properties will sense connection in Paris-native chef Cantineaux’s Pan-American fare, including ceviche and tiradito honed in Peru (Perez Febres’ homeland) and Miami. A showpiece French rotisserie spins fish, meat and poultry served with Latin flavor, such as Peruvian potatoes, spices and herbs.
Having toiled together 20 years on five concepts—six, counting a revitalized Bonito, which reopened in March 2018—Perez Febres and Cantineaux feel especially grounded at Betula.
“On the island [of St. Barts] everything is imported, except some fish,” explains the chef, an alum of Restaurant Guy Savoy and Restaurant Daniel. “Here, I hope to use seasonal product from Colorado—lamb, chicken, tomatoes, peaches—soon enough.” 525 E. Cooper Ave., Ste. 201, 970.429.8683