A Night at the Opera with Mark Milhofer and Hightimber Restaurant.
You may know High Timber best for great South African wines and food. Biltong and droëwors, great steaks and malva pudding make my South African friends feel right at home. The Jordan family who are co-owners of the restaurant with Neleen Strauss our host, also own the eponymous Stellenbosch winery and the extensive cellar at Hightimber has an amazing collection of South African wines.
You may also know that there’s something of a crisis in the South African wine industry thanks to a combination of Covid-19 and government restrictions on both local consumption and the export of wines.
For those two reasons alone, Hightimber is on my list – somewhere to chose, although it’s in the heart of the City and not my normal stomping ground. As an aside, right now, if you are looking for al-fresco dining with one of the best views in town at a quiet venue with great social distancing, thanks to the work-from-home City, Hightimber is a good bet.
And, on this particular evening, we had the added bonus of opera. As a regular opera-goer, live music is one of the things I’ve missed most through the lockdown. Of course, good food and great wine helps too. We started with a crisp glass of Jordan Sauvignon Blanc – watching the sunset over the Thames as Mark set up for the evening.
Now, I’m a music graduate and I’ve had a few singing lessons. I know very well that singing the kind of Operatic arias that Mark treated us to that evening without any kind of accompaniment – no piano, let alone an orchestra or chorus, is a real challenge. But Mark rose brilliantly to the challenge. I’ve checked out his website since to find out more about this most versatile tenor. He was a choral scholar at Magdalen Oxford which, for me explains the purity of sound and accuracy of his singing. The arias, split into two sets, really were mesmerising and his mellifluous tenor voice is one I really hope I’ll hear on stage soon.
Meanwhile, our starters of White Tomato Gazpacho had arrived. Enjoyed by my companions at a recent lunch at Hightimber, I’d been keen to see what the fuss was about. The intense tomato flavour comes from making a tomato essence by straining very ripe tomatoes through muslin, much as you would to make a jelly. Here garnished with crunchy croutons, basil oil and sun-dried tomato, it was a fragrant bowl of summer that paired very well with the Jordan Sauvignon Blanc.
I went on to enjoy a sirloin steak with chips and béarnaise sauce while my companion plumped for the sirloin tagliata with cauliflower purée, crispy shallots, rocket and jus. My steak was lovely, though medium rather than rare as I’d requested. I was too engrossed in the music though to be bothered – it was one of those evenings where the company, the ambience and the wine simply took over. Chips and béarnaise were perfect, as were our salads (an attempt to inject some kind of healthy eating in the evening).
The wine we were offered with our steaks was simply perfect. Cobbler’s Hill is a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend which is regarded as the ultimate expression of the Jordan terroir. Silky smooth, full of blackberry and toasty vanilla, it was a great pairing with the steaks. One of those wines I’d actually search out to buy, it’s so named in honour of the Jordan family heritage as master cobblers!
Malva pudding, our dessert, is a classic South African dish that I imagine has the same place in the hearts of South Africans as Sticky Toffee Pudding does for me. A light, apricot jam infused sponge with plenty of custard made for a lovely way to end the meal.
Probably the best way to find out about events and promotions at High Timber is to follow them on instagram. Obviously visting for a meal isn’t a bad idea either. They have a lunchtime special offer of sirloin steak, chips and a glass of wine for £20 which is as good a bargain as you’ll find anywhere in the City, let alone a venue with such great views.
8 High Timber Street
020 7248 1777