A most inviting little bistro had caught my eye every time I drove down Harbour Road in recent months, but, as I always seemed to be hurrying off to be somewhere else, I had not had the opportunity to investigate until last week. And what a surprise it was stepping into this little oasis next to Auberge Burgundy, where Originals Gallery used to be (the latter moved to new premises across the road a few months ago).
Owned by Martina Muller (known to all as Tina) of Auberge Burgundy, this new venture was intended as a breakfast room for the hotel’s guests. In honour of Prof Frances Gonin, the original owner of the house that was bought by Tina’s parents and turned into the Auberge Burgundy in 1995, the bistro is called Frances. (Interestingly, Prof Gonin was also the mayor of Hermanus for a short period in the early 1980s.)
Simplicity rules in Frances, from the décor, which is light, airy and uncluttered, right down to the compact menu. One of the most attractive features is the stacked windows which can be opened all the way, linking the interior to the vibrant street life of Harbour Road. “I wanted to create a French café style where it almost feels as though you are sitting on the pavement,” says Tina, who took charge of the interior design and décor.
For the design of the kitchen and development of the menu, Tina consulted well-known local restauranteur, Petri Hendriksz of Pear Tree and Char’d, whose signature flair is clearly evident in the innovative dishes on the breakfast/brunch menu. (Petri is an old friend who incidentally did the catering at Tina’s wedding – “We love his food!” she said.)
Apart from the attractive breakfast buffet, the brunch menu includes a variety of options such as mouth-watering Eggs Benedict made with English muffin, poached eggs, wilted spinach and wild truffle mushrooms topped with Hollandaise sauce (available in full or half portion); Decadent Banana Bread French Toast with caramelised banana, peanut butter and Nutella served with lemon crème fraîche; Wholesome baked apple with homemade granola, honey and yoghurt; and that French classic, Croque Monsieur, made with Klein River cheese, ham and Dijon mustard and served on home-baked sourdough bread.
Especially delicious are the fresh juices (try the Ginger Shot for a refreshing pick-me-up), smoothies and brunch cocktails, not to mention the coffees, brewed from organic, single origin beans that are locally roasted in small batches. There is also a delightful kids’ menu offering a Babyccino and four dishes with quirky names that are sure to bring a smile to any parent’s face – I Don’t Know; I’m Not Hungry; I don’t Care; and I Don’t Want That.
Tina, who grew up here and matriculated at Hermanus High, is passionate about supporting local. “Quality ingredients are my top priority and we have an abundance of fresh produce right on our doorstep in the Overstrand. We love giving visitors a taste of local flavours, which is why most of our produce comes from the area, including the handmade yoghurts, farm butter, berries, cheeses, home-baked bread, honey and coffee.”
Although she practically grew up in a restaurant – her parents, Wessel and Marolene Heunis owned Burgundy Restaurant from 1993 and ran both the restaurant and the guesthouse until her mother died a decade later – Tina says it’s the last thing she ever thought she’d end up doing. “I saw how hard my parents worked when they ran the Burgundy, especially my mom, who did most of the cooking before she became ill. But here I am and I’m loving it!”
Tina and her husband, Rickus Muller, an electrician and property developer who has also become known as the co-founder and chair of the Overberg BMX Club, are typical entrepreneurs. They are also parents to two young children, the youngest of whom was born in 2018 just a few weeks before Tina’s father died, leaving her as the custodian of the family legacy. Auberge Burgundy remains one of Hermanus’s most iconic guesthouses and can only benefit from Tina’s fresh eyes and innovative spirit, while ensuring that she retains the same quality and Provencale look and feel as her parents intended, and which have been enjoyed by visitors for almost 25 years.
Shortly after opening Frances in early spring last year, Tina decided to open it to the public, although it primarily serves the Auberge Burgundy’s guests. I think it was an excellent idea to share this little gem with the locals, many of whom have become regular and enthusiastic customers. If you haven’t popped in, be sure to do so any day of the week between 08:00 and 14:00.
Frances at Auberge Burgundy is available for private functions and will be hosting special dinners from time to time. Keep an eye on their Facebook page (Auberge Burgundy Guesthouse) or call 028 313 1201.