Claire Venn visits Café Milorca
There are three things that could be considered the Three Musketeers, if you will, of a great dining experience. A fine plate of food and an excellent bottle of wine are the first two, but the third – which really can make or break a night out – is the music. Whenever we go to a restaurant and there’s a sign outside punting “live music tonight”, Louise always looks at me in a rather dismayed way and says, “I hope they didn’t seat us too close to the singer.” There’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with a speaker next to your ear and a singer like Justin Bieber on steroids. In that case I might as well just order a pint of beer, some fish and chips and imagine that tonight is pub night.
Through weddings and dining out, Louise and I have got to see and hear talented local singer and guitarist Claire Venn on more than one occasion. Her laid-back and somewhat folksy style of music and persona are such that, instead of trying to talk over what seems like an invasion of the killer musos, you actually want to listen to her beautifully melodious voice while enjoying your meal.
Claire Venn does her thing at Café Milorca
1. Besides your professional gigs many people know you from your live performances at local cafes and restaurants. Is this an experience you enjoy, and why?
I really do enjoy the chilled coffee shop and restaurant vibe gigs. Many times it may come across as though patrons aren’t listening or paying attention… but this isn’t the case at all. Live music adds to the ambience of the setting and ultimately the whole dining experience. Because these gigs aren’t performance shows, I have a lot more freedom to be creative and try out new things… a lot of the time I’m just making stuff up and singing about what I see around me or how I feel that day… it’s a much more creatively fulfilling experience.
2. What sort of food do you most enjoy when someone else is cooking?
I LOVE food! Who doesn’t it? There are very few things that I don’t eat, so I’m pretty easy to please. I LOVE it when someone goes to the effort of making something special for me… from Mom’s homecooked meals, Dad’s killer stews and my partner Rick’s masterful braaiing skills… any meal prepared with thought and love makes me a very happy lady.
3. Do you spend much time in the kitchen yourself and if so, what type of dishes do you typically make?
Oh yes! I very much enjoy cooking. My kitchen is one of my favourite rooms in the house. Preparing a sit-down dinner for friends or family is something I take a lot of pride in… I see it mostly as a labour of love and it is definitely something that runs in our family. Of late I have been trying to be a little more creative, but it’s tough to steer away from previous winners. Much like my music, I enjoy cooking “off the cuff” and hardly ever stick to a recipe. My home-made burger patties (with loads of fresh herbs!!!) are a favourite at home… and I make a mean mutton and chilli potjie.
4. What five ingredients would you have in your fridge at any given time?
In my fridge? Hmmmm…. that’s a tough one. My favourite food group is definitely dairy. There is ALWAYS cheese in my fridge (usually two or more different types). There isn’t much a good cheese-overdose can’t fix. And feta goes on and in everything! Stuffed chicken breast, salads, sprinkled on pasta… the list goes on! Also butter. There is just no substitute and margerine is a definite NO-NO for me! In terms of my main cooking ingredients though… almost every meal starts with lightly frying up (in butter or olive oil) some onion, fresh garlic (not the crushed kind in containers!!!), chilli and some fresh herbs from my garden. Either basil, rocket, oreganum or rosemary, depending on what I’m cooking… of course those things don’t live in the fridge… but the CHEESE does 😉
5. Do you have a favourite restaurant or cafe where you like to eat and if so, is there a particular dish that you often end up ordering there?
I don’t eat out as much as I would like to… I’m very much a homebody and prefer having people around and entertaining guests. Although in saying that, Bocadillos’ smoked salmon salad is to die for! Allen, the manager, often reminds me that they have a wonderful menu with many other delicious items… but I just can’t seem to deviate. When I think of Bocas I think smoked salmon salad.
Colonial Kitchen is another favourite. Ananja, the owner and chef, has a gift for coming up with interesting dishes. Coupled with the beautiful laid-back setting, an amazing winelist and a good knowledge of wine and food pairing, you’re in for a fabulous dining experience.
6. If you could choose your last meal on earth, what would it be?
Wow! How to choose only one? If I could plan my last meal on earth I would probably go with my mom’s homemade bread and an assortment of cheeses and preserves… (no thought will be given to calories if it was my last meal!) washed down with a bottle of Moet et Chandon (hey, if it’s my last meal on earth I’m not going to be worried about the cost!)