What: A relaxed and trendy fine dining restaurant in the space that was once home to Chinese Laundry, which was closed by fire in early 2017 and then occupied by squatters.
Who: James Cochran; a chef of Scottish and West Indian heritage who has just done very well on Great British Menu. Cochran is best known for James Cochran E3 in The City which continues to trade under his name despite him parting ways with the business’s owners earlier this year. His partners own the rights to his name and some of the dishes with which he made it and are even attempting to license them to other restaurants via www.jamescochran.co.uk. He’s not best pleased.
The vibe: Cochran and his new business partner Dan Henry apparently had their work cut out getting the narrow, three storey site into a fit state (the squatters caused a fair bit of damage). 1251 is minimal, studio-like and retains some design elements from Chinese Laundry, including its stylishly-retro Formica tables.
The food: Due to the rights issues, Cochran isn’t able to serve some of the dishes for which he is best known, including his ‘nduja-wrapped Scotch egg, and jerk chicken. According to Henry, this isn’t an issue as Cochran was intending to create a totally new menu anyway. The food is interesting with an emphasis on flavours far more punchy than you’d usually find in a fine dining restaurant with clever use of spices and fermentation. Confit cauliflower comes with a fermented bagna cauda and a dusting of walnuts; and buttermilk-marinated deep-fried rabbit is partnered with intense emulsions of tarragon, horseradish and apricot. Twinning meat and fish is a common theme with roast pork combined with eel; and lamb served with a mayonnaise made with cod’s roe (pictured).
The menu: Divided into ‘snacks’ and ‘plates’, the menu is designed to be flexible. Customers can opt to treat it as a standard a la carte or as a sharing concept, although some dishes lend themselves to the latter approach better than others. There is a five course tasting menu and 1251 also offers a large goat dish that involves several different cuts that is based on one of Cochran’s dishes from Great British Menu priced at £40 per person. Much of the produce is sourced from North Kent (Cochran grew up in Whitstable).
And another thing: Cochran has another project coming up that’s expected to open before the end of the year, but is remaining tight-lipped for the moment.