Test Driving 1251 - James Cochran's innovative Islington restaurant

 So what do we need to know about 1251?

It's the first restaurant by Great British Menu contestant James Cochran since he rather acrimoniously parted ways with his previous restaurant partners - losing the right to use his name commercially as he did so. He pitches his new Islington restaurant as a place to try Michelin-level dining in a more relaxed environment.

Whereabouts is it?

Halfway up Upper Street - maybe marginally closer to Angel than Highbury and Islington tube. They've taken over the spot that used to be Chinese Laundry.

cocktailsThe one on the left with the sweet cicely vermouth is what you want  to order if it's on the menu

Where's good to meet for a drink first?

You're not short of places, both Slim Jim's Liquor Store and the John Salt are very close by. Or if you head through Gaskin Street opposite, you're only a few minutes walk from BrewDog Angel too.

So what sort of place is it?

This narrow little restaurant on Upper Street was criminally quiet when we popped in a few weeks ago. There are a couple of tables by the front window which we rather liked and there's another floor upstairs which is probably a bit brighter than the back of the ground floor dining room.

We kicked off with two cocktails, one of which was stellar featuring Tin Cup bourbon, pomegranate, sweet cicely vermouth and orange bitters. The other - a potent sounding Cuervo 1800 anejo with Mezcal, Grapefruit cordial and Ting felt a little bit underpowered. Both were a tenner.

What's for dinner?

The menu's loosely split into snacks, plates and desserts - with an option for you to try James's Great British Menu dish, the goat (which is £40 per person). Otherwise, snacks start at a bargain £3.50 for a potato crisp with Whitstable oyster cream, seaweed and vinegar and plates range in price from £9 to £15.

We were pretty impressed with everything we had on the night:

crabNot just a beautiful looking dish, this white crab tartlet with whipped brown crab butter (£6) is one you'll wish you'd ordered a whole tray of.

cauliEvery London restaurant has to have a cauliflower dish on their menu. It's the law. But 1251's confit cauliflower with fermented bagna cauda and walnuts (crazily good value at just £4.50) is currently the one to beat.

potatoMounds of potato 'spaghetti' with grated cured egg yolk, burnt butter cream and Italian truffle. A wonderful veggie dish at £15. And they knocked up a quick one without the egg for my egg-avoider dining companion. 

porkPersonally my favourite 'main' on the menu - this was pork with blood pudding, smoked eel, turnip kimchi, apricot and miso. A lot going on, but where every element made sense (£14). 

lambThis lamb dish, however, was the other top voted dish of the night - it's lamb with smoked cod's roe, artichokes, black olives and garlic (£15) and it IS amazing. But for my mind, not quite as amazing as the pork above.

peanutIf you're only having one dessert, this is the one to order - the salted caramel ice-cream sandwich with white chocolate, strawberries and peanuts (£8). Gorgeous, particularly as I don't even really like peanuts.

What about wine? 

Just as the menu is super value for money, the wine list isn't buttock-clenchingly expensive either. You can get a glass of Macabeo for under a fiver, and bottles range in price from £17 up to £50. 

Overall thoughts:

Hands-down one of 2018's best meals so far - and we've had a fair few by this stage of the year. From the sweet service, to the lovely clientele (shamelessly ogling the next table's dishes as they came as an idea of what to order, the chatty chaps even offered us a taste to help us decide), Islington's buzzy restaurant scene just went into overdrive with the arrival of 1251. It's also, for the area and quality of food, particularly great value. There are only 48 seats - so get in quick while you still can.


Hot Dinners dined as guests of 1251


More about 1251

Where is it? 107 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN

How to book: Book online

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @1251_restaurant


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