The former The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms chef says that top-end dining is not viable in his narrow Upper Street-based venue even under a 1m distancing rule.
"We are 100% bringing 12:51 back but probably not until next year. Re-opening under a one metre rule would see us lose about two thirds of our trade. I'd have to charge £150 per person to cover my overheads," says Cochran, who was named 'Champion of Champions' on Great British Menu last year.
12:51's innovative menu - which is influenced by its chef's Caribbean and Scottish heritage - would also be difficult to deliver from the restaurant's cramped kitchen while observing distancing between team members.
Around The Cluck's menu is centered around Cochran's Jamaican Fried Chicken and has been a big success on delivery and online ordering platforms including Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Slerp.
“We need to adapt through this shit situation to be honest,” says Cochran. "It’s a totally different operation from cooking high-end fine dining in an intimate restaurant to cooking 100KG of chicken a week. It also doesn’t help that we do love fried chicken, and my business partner and I are putting on a few pounds – it’s the ultimate comfort food and it’s everywhere, we can’t help ourselves."
Cochran has vacated the top floor of the restaurant - which is even less viable under distancing regulations - resulting in a significant cut to his rent bill.
He intends to keep 12:51 going through private dining events, with pop-ups and cooking at people's homes both possibilities.
A full interview with Cochran will be published next week.