Originally settled as a sleepy fishing village, the traveller’s love affair with Hermanus began well over two centuries ago, when the Harley Street doctors of London prescribed its crisp “champagne air” as an excellent remedy for consumption. By the 1920’s, its reputation as the “Riviera of the South” had been well established and hotels began popping up to accommodate the yearly influx of European tourists. By the 1950’s, many of these annual visitors had settled in Hermanus and built homes. Holidaymakers continued to pour into the village, subsidising a growing local economy. During the 1980’s, Hermanus was recognised as being one of the best places in the world for land-based whale watching, thanks to the vantage of its seafront cliffs and the abundance of southern right whales frolicking along the shore. Today, visitors and locals alike enjoy the many opportunities for recreation and relaxation found in Hermanus.
In 1993, Wessel and Marolene Heunis moved to Hermanus and took ownership of the Burgundy Restaurant, a historic landmark on the seafront of central Hermanus, named by its previous owner and local winemaker, Hamilton Russel. Due to a love for France and French cuisine, they ran the restaurant successfully, and it is still thriving to this day.
After a few years went by, the house across the road from the Burgundy was put up for sale. It was the house of former mayor of Hermanus, Professor Frances Gonin, who was in fact a professor of French. Although being a modest house with a large overgrown garden, Wessel and Marolene immediately fell in love with the property seeing its great potential as a guest house, the perfect accompaniment to the restaurant. They purchased the house and went off on a road trip around Provence to find inspiration. With a collection of photos, some tiles and even broken pieces of plaster, they returned with a vision of their Hermanus Guest House, the Auberge Burgundy.
The original house is now the reception and lounge. The construction of the main house and garden rooms began in 1995. Finally on the 16th of December 1996, the Auberge Burgundy opened its doors for business in Hermanus. Two years after the guesthouse was fully operational, the pool area was added. This was another renovation of what used to be a shop with a flat, as well as a jewellers workshop.
After years filled with eccentric guests and hilarious stories, the Auberge still remains a family-run guest house full of character and charm. Wessel and Marolene have both passed on, but the guesthouse is a testament to their ever lingering presence in Hermanus, reminiscent of the original tenant, Professor Gonin. The new custodian of this little slice of Provence is Wessel and Marolene’s daughter, Martina. She has added fresh eyes with a willingness to keep the same look and feel her parents intended. She and her husband have slowly renovated the guesthouse, ensuring their guests receive the same quality and standard they have enjoyed all of these years.
The latest addition is a boutique restaurant, named Frances, after Professor Frances Gonin. Inspired by the culinary lifestyle of the Mediterranean, the focus is on offering fresh, artisanal produce sourced from the local region. The menu is kept simple with an emphasis on quality ingredients, using organic, farm fresh produce from the region, supporting local artisans as much as possible. Our breads are freshly baked, our cheeses are from Klein River (an award winning farm nearby), our eggs are free range and even some of our crockery is from a potter in Kleinmond.
We’d like to thank our guests for being the most important part of our story! Come and stay with us so we can keep telling it! And join us on social media to follow along…