Maxzell Lerm is a bundle of energy with a winning smile and a bubbly personality; she not only moves fast but talks fast. She aims to please people and likes to get things done. Little wonder, then, that the establishment she and her husband, Christo van Jaarsveld, took over a year ago is blossoming under her care.

Chef Milly serving up chicken cordon bleu and steak tartare.

The establishment in question is a little piece of Hermanus history – the Mon Desir cottage in Marine Drive that was one of the first fisherman’s cottages to be built in the fledgling town, well over a hundred years ago. Now called the Heritage Restaurant, Maxzell’s magic touch and boundless enthusiasm has turned this venue into a welcoming space where visitors can enjoy an early breakfast, tuck into lunch or dinner, or enjoy sundowners while watching the whales frolicking in Walker Bay only metres away.

Situated across the road from the original fountain, Hermanuspietersfontein, which gave our town its name, Heritage Restaurant enjoys a prime position with great sea views and is surrounded by guesthouses and B&Bs. Yet several owners before the Van Jaarsvelds struggled to make this restaurant work, and this young entrepreneurial couple has put in a lot of effort to turn it around.

Eager to attract not only tourists but also local trade, Maxzell explains that they started at the beginning by asking for detailed feedback from their customers. Unlike many restauranteurs and chefs who balk at anything that can be remotely construed as criticism, Maxzell invited it and says she takes each and every comment to heart. I applaud her for that, as ‘listen and learn’ is not a strategy that many apply.

The result is that locals pay half-price for corkage; on Wednesdays and Thursdays pensioners get a free glass of wine or a free coffee / tea with their meals; light meals that usually only appear on lunch menus can also be enjoyed in the evening, and the outside area is pet-friendly, with water bowls available for thirsty pooches. For those embracing a healthier lifestyle, Maxzell has added vegetarian and banting options to the menu, and fresh juices and coffees are available to take away. The venue is also wheelchair-friendly, with ample parking across the road, a TV screen for sports fans and free WiFi.

Blue and yellow touches have brightened up the outside area of Heritage Restaurant.

Although the traditional cottage is charming, it was a bit dark and drab before Maxzell applied liberal coats of white paint to lighten the interior, and used a yellow and blue colour scheme to brighten up the covered outside area in front of the restaurant. During the day, this is a lovely spot to relax and enjoy the views, while the newly-installed gas fireplace inside keeps the winter chill at bay and creates a cosy atmosphere.

Breakfast is served from 07:00 and a popular option is the special Full English breakfast for early birds, which includes baked beans, tomato hash brown and beef sausage at only R85, including coffee or juice. Then there’s a delectable Eggs Benedict and a Banting Benedict (with a butternut bun instead of ciabatta), scrambled eggs, omelettes, pancakes… Not to mention the sublime chocolate croissant and other freshly-baked cakes and pastries.

Maxzell van Jaarsveld has her hands full, not only with the restaurant but also with her very active 17-month-old son, Danto.

For lunch and dinner, their new winter menu offers a wide variety of dishes that cater for the very-hungry, not-so-hungry, health-conscious, banting and vegetarian guests. From toasted ciabatta sandwiches, burgers and salads, to pizzas and pastas, everything is freshly prepared. The mains include chicken cordon bleu, braised pork belly, duck breast, game fillet and seafood platters, with lighter options such as fresh West Coast mussels, calamari, butter curries (chicken or vegetarian) and a grilled aubergine tower. Because they use only fresh produce, Maxzell says the menu may change according to availability.

In charge of the kitchen are the three chefs, Millicent Mondiripo (Milly), Tinotenda Nyamadzawo (Tino) and Billard Fundira (Billy) and their team – “they are all magical”, says Maxzell.

Heritage Restaurant is open 7 days a week from 07:00 for breakfast, lunch and dinner (the kitchen closes at 21:00 in winter). The venue is available for private and corporate functions, and is ideal for business meetings and local club get-togethers. You’ll find Heritage Restaurant at 32 Marine Drive, Hermanus. Call 028 312 2859 for bookings.

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