James Cochran, head chef at 12:51 on where to eat in London
James Cochran started his career at Wheelers Oyster Bar in Whitstable. Upon moving to London, he honed his talents in several Michelin-starred restaurants including The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms. He went on to run the kitchen at James Cochran EC3 before launching his first restaurant, 12:51, in 2018. He recently opened Valderrama’s bar in Islington.
A spot I like to relax with a drink is The Plimsoll in Highbury – a classic place where what you see is what you get. It’s quite hipster but still has character – a little Highbury gem that’s undeniably cool to hang out in. They also have a great selection of whites.
The latest outpost by Josh Katz, Carmel is the place to go for gorgeous Turkish inspired food and natural wine that doesn’t break the bank. I really feel the playlist there – I want to say it’s Iranian pop? Very vibey. The stand-out dish has to be the Lebanese cream with tahini and chocolate mousse. I asked Josh for the recipe but I don’t blame him for keeping it secret.
I know lots of people love it, but there’s a good reason for that. It specialises in Northern Chinese cuisine so expect dishes you might not associate with the Chinese food we’ve come to enjoy here in the UK. The dumplings bang, but explore the lesser known dishes like the seaweed and lamb skewers.
One spot I really enjoy in Soho is Humble Chicken – I’m a huge chicken fan and I can vouch for the fact these guys use the highest quality chicken around, and the man knows his way around the BBQ. I love that no piece of chicken is wasted. Forget just wings, breast and thigh – this guy is even doing things with the parson’s nose! The oysters are humongous and delicious, too.
I’m so proud to see The Ledbury back on the scene. It’s a place close to my heart and the food blew me away. I love that despite the skill involved and beauty of the food, the restaurant is super chill and there’s zero pretension. Chef Brett Graham serves the food himself and I love to see the produce – from the Iberican pork to the venison. The standout dish was the venison cheeks.