Neleen Strauss

2019 profile

Co-owner and wine buyer – High Timber

South African-born Neleen Strauss, co-owner of Thameside restaurant High Timber, takes a no-nonsense approach to the fine art of food-and-wine pairing. Becoming a sommelier, she told the drinks business, was “the natural process of being a waitress first and just getting deeper into the wine side of things. Food is better with wine, and people are also generally better with wine – so why not do what I love for a living?”

Outspoken and direct, Strauss made headlines in 2012 for hand-delivering a bill for £90,000 to the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson to protest against alleged losses of trade during the Olympics, claiming that turnover was knocked by 80% over the fortnight as workers abandoned The City during the tournament. “This is – give or take a few hundred pounds – what the Olympic Games have cost me in turnover since they began,” she said at the time. “And I have asked Boris Johnson to pay the bill personally, not from the seemingly limitless coffers that supported London 2012.”

Strauss loves working in London because it is “a diverse city that accepts anyone and anything”, but her fondest wine memories come from her homeland. She told us about the first time winery boss Gary Jordan spent a day with her at his Family’s estate in Stellenbosch, taking her through every stage of their winemaking process. And she ays her own fantasy vineyard would be in Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, next to the Kruger Park.

She reckons she would be working as a game ranger if it weren’t for her love of vino. A lot has changed in the UK since Strauss moved here in 2001, most notably the consumers’ knowledge and interest in New World wines. “The web helped a lot for the  average UK wine drinker to realise there’s life outside of France,” she says.

“The price point of fabulous wines from the New World also helped their sense of adventure.” The biggest lesson she’s learned on the job, like many of our influencers, is that the lesson is never over. If she could go back in time, she would tell her younger self to “be humble, learn, don’t assume and listen. And never be a loudmouth about cricket…”


Leave your reply

Most Recent Stories

Amuse-bouches: The latest restaurant news bites

In restaurant news: a High Court hospitality case against the government gets expedited, UK restaurant chain Six by Nico is accused of staff mistreatment, and chef Skye Gyngell opens a farm shop.  

New online grower Champagne retailer and wine club targets growth

Sip Champagnes, a new online retailer and wine club championing grower and small-scale Champagne producers, wants to target the UK on-trade and expand into Europe.

HK bar industry agrees to government proposal in exchange for reopening

The Hong Kong bar industry has agreed to accept the proposal from the government to ask patrons to keep their masks on and use a straw to drink alcohol if it will mean venues can reopen. 

Italian restaurant targeted by US sanctions in case of mistaken identity

An Italian restaurant found itself at the mercy of one of former US President Donald Trump's last sanctions after it was wrongly identified as being linked to a Venezuelan oil trafficker. 

California Wine Institute launches food and wine competition

The California Wine Institute has launched a new competition this month called Cook with California, which aims to show how well wines from the US state pair with British produce. 

Most Recent Stories

Amuse-bouches: The latest restaurant news bites

In restaurant news: a High Court hospitality case against the government gets expedited, UK restaurant chain Six by Nico is accused of staff mistreatment, and chef Skye Gyngell opens a farm shop.  

New online grower Champagne retailer and wine club targets growth

Sip Champagnes, a new online retailer and wine club championing grower and small-scale Champagne producers, wants to target the UK on-trade and expand into Europe.

HK bar industry agrees to government proposal in exchange for reopening

The Hong Kong bar industry has agreed to accept the proposal from the government to ask patrons to keep their masks on and use a straw to drink alcohol if it will mean venues can reopen. 

Italian restaurant targeted by US sanctions in case of mistaken identity

An Italian restaurant found itself at the mercy of one of former US President Donald Trump's last sanctions after it was wrongly identified as being linked to a Venezuelan oil trafficker. 

California Wine Institute launches food and wine competition

The California Wine Institute has launched a new competition this month called Cook with California, which aims to show how well wines from the US state pair with British produce.