The small and unassuming front of 1251 is easily missed if you’re walking up Islington’s Upper Street, but don’t pass up the chance to eat at James Cochran’s inventive, exciting solo venture.
107 Upper St

N1 1QN
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  • 1251
    107 Upper St, , UK, London , N1 1QN
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    James Cochran was a rising star in food long before he embarked on his first solo restaurant. He was crowned ‘Champion of Champions’ on Great British Menu in 2018 – his first appearance on the show – and he simultaneously garnered rave reviews at James Cochran EC3 in Liverpool Street. The difference now? James has total creative control at 1251, and it shows – his effervescent personality and far-reaching culinary influences are all on show here, and critics like Jay Rayner and Jimi Famurewa have waxed lyrical about the delicious things coming out of his kitchen.

    Many chefs who rise to fame through Great British Menu go on to run establishments that focus on a more classical approach to fine dining. Anyone who watched James on Great British Menu will likely realise that he is not that sort of chef, and 1251 is not that sort of place. ‘We didn’t have that huge initial investment that some others have,’ James explains. ‘Ours covered the site and legal fees, so we’ve built everything else organically.’ It’s no bad thing – James’ personality comes through in spades as a result and the restaurant is a wonderful space, if a little narrow in parts. The service is friendly and relaxed, and you’ll often get the chance to chat with James himself as he comes through the dining room, sporting his signature baseball cap and black gingham socks.

    The food is equally unpretentious, but there’s still some serious cooking going on behind the scenes that draws on James’ considerable time at The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms. All of James’ dishes make a point of playing with texture – he introduces all sorts of crumbles, water-soluble powders and purees to maximise the flavours of a dish. His incredible Sea salt ice cream, lemon curd, chocolate and almonds dessert is a classic example of that – accompanying the ice cream is a smooth, sharp lemon curd, the crunch of an almond crumble, an aerated chocolate foam and a chocolate powder that melts in the mouth. It’s an assault on the senses.

    There’s a lovely compact drinks menu too – one that includes house cocktails like the Bloody Mary Martini and the elderflower-infused 1251 Bellini – and there’s a bring your own booze night on a Tuesday for those who feel like dipping into their own wine collection.

    Three things you should know
    You can buy James Cochran's clothing and scotch bonnet jam in the restaurant to take home with you.
    1251 is named after a song by The Strokes.
    James has collaborated with Brick Brewery to create two special brews for 1251 – a pilsner lager and a jerk stout.
    107 Upper St, , UK, London , N1 1QN
    Restaurant reservations