Recipe for success is a special blend

Q Three years in the City – how has it been?

A Considering we opened High Timber just as the recession kicked in, overall it has been fabulous. There are so many big characters in the City; the restaurant always seems to have a buzzing and fun atmosphere.

Q What’s been great and what’s been hard?

A It is great to see that in such a short time we have built up quite a large and loyal customer base. Working with such great food and wine suppliers has also been reassuring for us. It was not the easiest time to open in 2009 – the City lost a lot of employees and many were wary of the economy. I think having had the same core staff since we opened makes life a lot easier.

Q What’s your favourite part about being a City restaurant?

A I just love the City. It’s full of people working to keep the rest of the country alive, they work and play hard and know exactly what they want to eat and drink. The City has a certain charm I will never get tired of. I think having the Thames on our doorstep helps to lend a certain amount of escapism too.

Q So it’s true: City folk love meat?

A Yes, on the whole, meat always goes down well, a trend I think that has only increased in the recession as City workers look to warming and hearty comfort food during their lunch. They love quality and our Lake District cows taste superb. Our T-Bone should get its own Facebook page.

Q High Timber has a wonderful spot on the river. Have any of the customers got too frisky and had any near-misses with a swim in the Thames?

A There are particular times when we have to be on our guard and Chef (Justin Saunders) gets out his red Bay Watch life guard shorts – particularly around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I think perhaps NYE wins for friskiness – they had their own fireworks. Enough said! It is true that restaurant staff go blind and deaf when their customers over-indulge…

Q You co-own High Timber with Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch. Tell us about the unusual High Timber wine collection and why your cellar is interesting.

A We are proud of the South African connection and offer the largest range of New World wines of any City restaurant. Jordan Wines is making us our own red blend, and Ken Forrester has already made us a fuller version of his famous FMC; FMC Moelleux, especially for High Timber. Very chuffed. With Gary and Kathy Jordan we have strong ties with the best wineries in SA, many of whom see it as a home-from-home when they are visiting the UK.

Q Why do you think people would want South African wine when there’s so much choice? And traditionally, professionals like Old World vino, don’t they?

A A lot of British people have links with SA, in a business capacity or a personal one. And increasingly we find the City far more open to explore all different types of wine. We do of course have fabulous Old World wines for those days when they want to show the money (or, more often than not, have lost a rugby/cricket match against SA).

Q With lots of competition in London, how do you keep attracting customers?

A We always try to over-deliver. South Africans are easy going, I abhor snottiness from waiting staff. We always do our best to make every one feel like a regular.

Q Any tips for getting the most out of South African wine?

A Chenin Blanc is one of the best grapes for food. Whether it is a light cheapie, or a luscious silky oaked wine, they tend to make them very well there.

Q What are you most excited about at High Timber?

A Working next to a passionate head chef that loves cooking, (Justin Saunders) we have daily food excitement. We are looking at ways of making our terrace even more relaxing to de-stress our regular clientele over the commuting nightmare that will be the Olympics. When the sun is out for real I will do a proper braai on the terrace on Saturday afternoons.

High Timber is at 8 High Timber Street, EC4V 3PA, tel: 020 7248 1777,

Boisdale of Bishopsgate
A City institution, this Scottish-themed restaurant is owned by the exuberant personality Ranald Macdonald. It’s where Square Mile stalwarts go to do business over the finest single malts, Scottish seafood and the very best steak in an atmospheric bar and tartan-tastic dining rooms. Boisdale also has restaurants in Belgravia and Canary Wharf. 202 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4NR,
tel: 020 7283 1763

Jamie Oliver’s outpost at One New Change is a fantastic place for meat-lovers, with divine pulled pork, burgers and steaks. If you are in any doubt about the quality of the meat served, check out the Barbecoa butcher, which is full of a variety of meat to make carnivores weep. 20 New Change Passage, EC4M 9AG, tel: 020 3005 8555

Coq D’Argent
Where the young crowd go to let down their hair after work, Coq D’Argent boasts unrivalled views of the City rooftops from its beautiful terraces. There is not better place in town for a glass or three of Champagne on a summer’s day. 1 Poultry, EC2R 8JR, tel: 020 7395 5000

One of the City’s choicest spots for fresh seafood, Chamberlain’s in Leadenhall Market sources its fish from Billingsgate Market and offers everything from tip top fish and chips to more ornate fare. A great wine list tops off the experience. 23-25 Leadenhall Market, EC3V 1LR, tel:
020 7648 8690

The Bleeding Heart
A favourite among Clerkenwell gourmands, this French eaterie also has a bistro for more casual dining and a tavern for a cheeky drink before dinner. The main restaurant serves rich, characterful Gallic food and has a deeply loyal client base. Expect to drink a glass too many of rich Bordeaux. 19 Greville Street, EC1N 8SJ, tel: 020 7242 8238