"It's not much but it's ours"

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Let battle commence.

I have, as I have been travelling the country, become a bit of a connoisseur of electric hand dryers. The ones I encounter at the shabby service stations, where I have to stop rather too frequently to point Percival at the porcelain, are of course rubbish with a slow stream of cool air doing little but delay you from buying an over priced hot chocolate from Costa.

In restaurants and pubs, however, the ante has very much been upped with a whole new breed of machines on show including the thus far daddy of them all, the Dyson Airblade, which leaves your mitts dry as a bone in a mere ten seconds (on show in the johns of St John, for the London centric) and without any call for that slightly comical need to push the button with your elbow to avoid touching with your wet hands.

But, the Dyson’s reign looks like it could be a short one. Now, hand dryer fans, there is the Xcelarator, a machine so powerful that it could crack the space/time continuum. A machine so powerful that my hands are still tingling some twelve hours after my last visit to the toilets of High Timber, a new South African owned steak house over looking the Thames near the Millennium Bridge. It is worth a visit just to give that a try although I suspect they will soon be forced to place a sign outside warning away the pregnant and cardio challenged.

To be fair, however, impressive as The Xcelarator was and lord help me it was impressive enough that not just a prostate the size of a grapefruit made me revisit more times than was strictly necessary, our main reason for being there was the hope that High Timber, in soft opening mode, would prove a welcome addition to London’s burgeoning steakhouse scene.

The menu is short, but shrieks of good provenance and the main events, the cow of course, is all sourced from that flat capped Cumbrian superstar farmer, Andrew Sharp who ages whole ribs for 28 days before they are butchered in house. The wine list, on the other hand, will be lengthy, given that the operation is, I think, a joint venture between one of the previous owners of Vivat Bacchus in Farringdon and Jordans, suppliers of some of the very best South African wines on offer in the U.K.

Starters are priced at £bugger me apiece and after nibbling on some slightly ordinary bread with excellent butter, we shared well presented plates of “Pulled Pork Shoulder of Middlewhite Pork” at £7.50 and “Chicken Liver and Foie Parfait” at £8

The former, a rillette by any other name, was in serious need of seasoning to bring flavour to the otherwise bland shards of meat and would also have benefited from the addition of some grilled bread to smear it on, and a few cornichons to add salty contrast.

The parfait, too lacked depth needing more of that salt stuff, but HP’s main concern was the lack of texture in the over whipped dish and the fact that the brioche crumbled to the touch like an ancient relic exposed to sunlight making the trip from plate to mouth almost impossible.

Good meat is not cheap and, although the £26/7 for our chosen cuts of rump and rib eye might make a few eyes water, it is consistent with the other worthwhile places in town. On the plus side, the steaks are served with a braised mushroom, vine tomatoes, watercress, onion rings and chips. On the downside, if you are charging top whack for your steaks, do you really need to extract another £1.50 for a small jar of sauce even if it does turn out to be one of the best béarnaise I have tried in a long time?

The steaks come served on a wooden board and both looked the part with the requested char. Both too were cooked rare as requested with only the distinct rings of colour inside suggesting that they needed to rest a little longer. It may be my preference for things aged and maggoty or the lack of fat on the rib eye, but while HP nodded in approval, I felt the steaks lacked flavour, needing perhaps another week of ageing.

Of the accompanying sides, plus points for the Chalk Valley watercress, which was delicious and peppery and for a meaty mushroom spiked with chilli. Marks off for serving tomatoes on their vine, which meant they exploded tomato water everywhere when I attempted to separate them. Ambivalence towards the bhaji style onions rings in a spicy breading and a scream of "for shame" for dreadful chips. Fat, undercooked, pale like a northerner on the first day of their holiday in Benidorm and, worst of all, with the skins still on. It still bemuses me how restaurants can do this and pass it off as a benefit. Ho hum.

Our wine was a thing of beauty and beautifully priced. Seeing the De Toren “Z” on the menu prompted me to order the Merlot based Bordeaux blend from the Den Dulk family in Stellenbosch, whose estate I was lucky enough to visit almost a year ago. Despite being a potent 14.5%, it was soft, elegant and fruity, worth every penny of the £29 being charged.

Desserts too are well priced at £5.50 and, although I have not quite figured out our waiter’s declaration that selections of sorbet and ice cream were ‘homemade but not made here” they were a suitable full stop to our meal.

With a soft opening discount of 50% from our food bill and the addition of a charge for very charming service, the bill came to £84 (nearer £120 without the discount), which brings it into line with Goodman and Hawksmoor.

It still has a way to go before it can mount a serious challenge to the two best steakhouses in London, but when it comes to hand dryers, High Timber is already in a league of its own.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, but the Dyson still wins...and why no photos of the hand dryer in question? I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time you have taken photos in the gents toilets :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009 9:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh I dont know,

Dyson vs Xlerator
Mitsubishi vs Airforce
Biojet vs Blast

Theres many a battle going on between the high speed and new generation hand dryers.

All are listed at
All with green rating and relevant specs, makes the decision easier

Monday, March 23, 2009 9:26:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The mitsubishi in john lewis oxford so great that men line up with wet hands just to try it....

Monday, March 23, 2009 1:13:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the tomatoes-what a silly affectation to leave them on the vine,and I don't think grilled tomatoes of any kind go with a great steak. This is Berni Inn eating and should stop forthwith.
As for the skins on the chips-again,you are right,but how do we stop the spread of this virus?
What would happen if we started to send them back and ask for the potatoes to be peeled? If we all did it,maybe these places would get the message?Any thoughts?

Monday, March 23, 2009 1:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First time poster, but are either of you fans of The Pope's Eye steaks? It was my local steak-house in my SW15 days and some speak highly of it and its brother.

Monday, March 23, 2009 4:48:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

I used to live only a few minutes from the Upper Richmond Road branch about 12 years ago. I remember a huge rump (that might have been my GF though), good chips and Ice Cream and a massive, cash-only tab. We'd be interested in any recent reports.


Monday, March 23, 2009 5:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Xcelerator started showing up in a few bars around NY last year and now they're everywhere. You can probably expect the same in London. A little disconcerting to watch the flesh on your hands undulating under its tremendous force, though.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 4:15:00 pm  
Blogger Chris Pople said...

Right, funny thing about steaks, and I have done some research, is that it's basically completely random whether you're going to get a good one or not. I mean not TOTALLY random of course - decent ageing and a good butcher help - but you can get one £20 T-bone from Jack O'Shea one week and it will be perfect, and then next week it will be watery and weak. And there's nothing anyone can do about it. I think it's just down to natural variations between the animals themselves. Or something. It's annoying though.

Oh and Popeseye, based on my visit to the Kensington Olympia branch, are absolutely awful.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 9:25:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Popeseye is gross.Inedible slices of leather served by surly waitresses on unwashed tables still sticky with how many days grime.And the place stinks as they cook the meat and have no ventialtion,so you have to dry-clean yourself if you go.
An awful experience ,as Chris says.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 12:14:00 pm  

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