What's the draw:
There's a lot to like about chef James Cochran. He's worked at the Michelin-starred Ledbury and The Harwood Arms. He won Great British Menu in 2018. He's half-Jamaican, half-Scottish and was raised in Whitstable on the Kent coast, all of which plays into a bold and inventive cooking style. In 2018 he left the restaurant where he'd been head chef – James Cochran E3 (losing his name due to trademark) – and opened, to much acclaim, 12:51 on buzzy, busy Upper Street, Islington. And now, he's created a five-course tasting menu on Monday and Tuesday nights for a mere £35 – and you can BYOB. Thank you, James.
What to drink:
Well, it's BYOB, so whatever you fancy. But if you aren't having the Monday and Tuesday night tasting menu, there's still plenty here to wet your whistle. We didn't feel like opening our bottle of red till later in the meal, so we started with a glass of the 2017 Alba Martin albarino from the Galician region of Rías Baixis, where a green, lush, coastal landscape has resulted in an equally lush, fragrant and mineral wine with hints of white fruit.
What to eat:
Alright, we'll say it. For £35, this tasting menu can't really be faulted. It showcases the breadth of Cochran's cooking, it's packed with seasonal produce, the vegetarian option was as well thought out as the non-veg, and – something that can't be underestimated when it comes to tasting menus – we left comfortably full rather than ready to burst. First out the door was Cochran's signature buttermilk jerk chicken with scotch bonnet jam (even if you don't have the tasting menu, you should probably eat this), and a delightfully light yet flavour-packed and umami-laden malt cracker with carrot, sesame seeds and moreish gratings of a creamy, light blue cheese. Then came a mackerel fillet, topped with Hackney-made 'nduja and pickled cucumber (good); a beautiful plate of crispy cauliflower with smoked yoghurt and grains (very good); and a winning dish of barbecued leek, elegantly draped with truffle and covered in hazelnuts (so good that we actually don't know what came on the meaty menu). Dessert was damn tasty too – a chocolate tart, served with milk sorbet and a seriously addictive crunchy cereal scattered on top. If all our weeks start like this, we'd be very happy indeed...
Monday and Tuesday night tasting menu, £35. 107 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN; 1251.co.uk