Peter Morrell enjoys a wealth of warm South African hospitality in one of London’s best located restaurants
Walk north across the Millennium Bridge, turn right and after about five minutes the Thames path is diverted around the now disused Queenhithe Dock. Ignore the diversion and after a few steps you arrive at the South African restaurant, High Timber.
The restaurant has large panoramic windows overlooking the Thames and a terrace for alfresco dining which because of the diversion has no people walking in front of it. My wife and I recently had dinner at High Timber and chose to sit outside enjoying the icon studded view, the Shard to the left with the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern straight ahead. They were bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun at the start of our meal and by the end were a blaze of lights reflected in the river.
The owner of High Timber Neleen Strauss has brought her own brand of South African cuisine and hospitality to London and paired it with the wines created by Gary and Kathy Jordan of the Jordan Estate in the Western Cape’s Stellenbosch and the culinary mastery of Head Chef Mircel McSween.
We perused the menu while nibbling on home-made bread and sipping a South African Graham Beck Brut Vintage Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine. It was fresh and bright with a creamy texture, lots of tropical fruit and yeasty notes on the palate.
I just knew that this was going to be a good meal after the first sip of the White Tomato Gazpacho, an intense soup flavoured with sundried cherry tomatoes, brioche and basil oil. It was a taster of one of the starters so to get the full spectrum on offer we sampled four others from the menu.
Our first was Rooibos (Red Bush) Tea Smoked Salmon, served with rye bread and horseradish. This was rich and tasty with subtle background smoky tones. It was then on to the Grilled Mackerel, the richness of the fish was complemented by an inventive mix of gooseberries, hazelnuts, dressed beetroot and horseradish. Our wine match for these two dishes was the Jordan Chardonnay, fermented in barrels for 8 months. It was light and elegant working well with precise flavours of the fish.
Our next two samples were meat based, the Biltong Croquette and the Seared Beef and Foie Gras Carpaccio. The Biltong, air dried beef, is made with in-house with best topside. it had been minced and made into a very flavoursome croquette sitting on a mildly spicy peppadew ketchup. Our last starter, the Carpaccio was a triumph, moist thin slices of beef garnished with parmesan, truffle, croute and rocket. This was the most divine mix of aromas and flavours, a sheer culinary delight. The wine pairing was another Jordan Chardonnay, this had been barrel fermented for 11 months and had produced a powerful wine with deep tropical fruit flavours.
For the mains we decided to have one meat and one fish dish, I chose a steak from a selection classified by cut (Sirloin, Rib Eye and Fillet) and weight and my wife opted for Roast Cod. The 28 day aged Rib Eye was moist, tender and packed lots of flavour while my wife’s fish was sea fresh and delicate. We share ‘High Timber’ Chips, crunchy on the outside and floury in the middle, and delicious Sesame Snow Peas with caramelised onion and chilli. We swapped cod for beef as we both savoured the mains and the sides. The partnering wines were equally as good as the food, The FMC (Forrester Meinert Chenin) was a luscious off-dry Chenin Blanc layered with lychee, honey, citrus and showing a smokey background. The red to accompany the steak was the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, with intense red fruits in the bouquet. This evolved on the palate into well structure tannins and complex flavours of leather, oak, vanilla and tobacco, the finish had a fruity persistence.
Ir was dessert time and we tried two of South Africa’s favourites, the first was Malva Pudding, a warm apricot sponge with custard, it may sound ordinary but was anything but, it was rich and indulgent. The second was ‘Don Pedro’, vanilla ice cream laced with Amarula Liqueur, like a thick milk shake with a kick, it was our decadent finale. We drank a very honeyed South African sweet wine and a tawny port as partners to these divine desserts.
Before leaving Neleen showed us around, there is a walk in cheese room and two cosy wine rack lined private dining rooms in the basement. These can either be hired or are the location for public wine tasting events. There is also a shop where you can buy a number of things including wine. If the weather is not kind to you then the bright airy inside dining space still offers extensive views and you can admire the works of featured South African artist Hugo Maritz.
Eating at High Timber was a unique and memorable dining experience, the location and the view is unparalleled, the food is innovative, the wines from the Western Cape are superb and Neleen and her team are full of warm South African hospitality. I can thoroughly recommend a meal there.
8 High Timber Street
020 7248 1777