View from Abroad: Neleen Strauss of High Timber Restaurant

Across the globe, a number of unsung heroes are flying the flag for South African wine. Not as part of some personal crusade, but simply because their passion, zeal and personality – coupled with suitable professional environs – create an exciting platform for the country’s wines and wine makers. And they don’t come much more colourful, knowledgeable and engaging than Neleen Strauss, Bloemfontein-born co-owner and manager of High Timber Restaurant in London. We asked her for her own words. 

Write something for my blog, he said. Perceptions and impressions of your restaurant customers regarding South African wine, he said. How has things changed during my almost two decades in London, he asked. (I did ask nicely. – Ed)

Oh, and write in English, he said.

“You want me to drink South African wine? Why?!” This was possibly the sentence that became the greatest leveller in my restaurant career. The year was 2003, London’s best weathered summer prior to 2018. As a newcomer to the London restaurant scene, I quickly realised that I might think South Africa can make wine, but the majority of the people that came to the restaurant most certainly didn’t share my enthusiastic views. Thank god this was in London, and it was mostly the English I had to convince in rethinking their opinion on my country’s wine. Imagine trying to do this in Paris or Madrid? Nay.

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