You are here: Camberwell \ Food & Drink \ HIGH TABLE AT HIGH TIMBER
16 April 2009
8 High Timber Street,
London, EC4V 3PA
As I stepped across the Southwark border into the next borough my knees started shaking, a common complaint for Bermondsey boys who feel they need a passport to go off the manor.
This time, though, it was because I was on the wobbly bridge heading over to the City to fine wine and dine at High Timber, a brand new restaurant opposite Shakespeare's Globe. I was being accompanied by Sweet Jane, a French wine connoisseur who knows what she likes.
High Timber is a collaboration between the Jordan Wine Estate in South Africa and Neleen Strauss, who made her name with City restaurant Vivat Bacchus, so prides itself on its fantastic 40,000 bottle collection of South African wines and rare vintages.
Being a new restaurant it was quiet when we arrived, so we had the full attention of the smart staff that smiled, took our coats and offered almost any table in the house. With such excellent views across to the Globe and Tate Modern we obviously chose one of the window tables.
Owner and wine expert Ms Strauss came over and spoke about the wines and invited us to take a look round the extensive cellars - an offer we didn't refuse. Oenist Sweet Jane was excited as she had never been invited to a restaurant wine store before, so while she and the owner batted wine words to each other I slowly froze in the temperature controlled cellar. Even so, between them they came up with the perfect South African Chenin Blanc.
As Jane and I caught up with loves and life the black-clad, Ninja-like staff awaited our order.
From a well thought out selection of meat, fish and vegetarian starters Jane went for the scallops with apple salsa and bacon, which looked absolutely delicious, while I went for mushrooms in an unidentifiable - but good - sauce on toast.The wine recommended by our hostess travelled down well with both dishes.
The starters were served on black slate, a nice touch that went along with the many other nice touches in High Timber: the servers carry the food at head height, deftly on their fingertips; they pour the water and wine seemingly from a distance with outstretched arm, so as not to intrude in any way.
If you leave the table you return to a re-folded napkin.
Nice touches. There is some interesting artwork on the walls and the furniture reflects both modern and traditional styles. We were told that chef Justin Saunders specialises in grilled steaks but this did not persuade us to go with any of the Cumbrian beef steaks on the menu, although Jane did order the venison.
Ever the gourmand, she claimed that 'one simply can't live without having red wine with venison' and asked Ms Strauss to choose a glass to accompany her main course. A Syrah from the Jordan estate was soon brought and deemed 'simply divine'. I am not good with red meat so had the one fish option, John Dory with white asparagus and cockle vinaigrette. All good, Very good.
As the conversation moved from Swiss lakes and wine to the Barbican and to the hardships of work we did not feel rushed by the staff. They subtly float around rather than hover menacingly.
When we eventually got round to choosing desserts I found the usual range of chocolate tarts, terrines, puddings and sorbets on the menu but my eye was caught by three homemade ice creams which turned out to be a wise choice: the Grand Marnier, Hazelnut Praline and vanilla were delicately delightful. Sweet Jane, after outrageously flirting with any of the female staff in trousers, asked for a rundown on the cheeses and got another invite to go backstage to see what they had. After a while, just as I considered getting up a search party to find the missing miscreant, she returned with a mischievous grin.
The naughty girl had been sampling slivers of exotic cheeses off the waiter's gloved hand in the cheese room. And of course she just had to have the proffered port with the selection that arrived with grapes, bread and crackers.
We finally finished with coffees. Sated and replete.
High Timber has already picked up a few regular customers and I'm sure that before long booking will be essential. The food and wine is of the finest quality and can be taken with the finest views over the river. Time it right and you can catch a real and beautiful Waterloo Sunset.
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