Caribbean, International·
Silver Award

SquareMeal Review of 12:51

Silver Award

Chef James Cochran’s departure from his eponymous restaurant in EC3 was a messy one, involving a legal battle with his former investors that has resulted in the site still operating under his name. However, the chef hasn’t let any of this dampen his enthusiasm, and the pay-off is 1251 – a confidently ambitious, two-floor site on Islington’s restaurant-heavy Upper Street.

Lunch brings a great-value express menu that promises three plates for under £20, while those arriving for dinner can choose between the carte or a five-course tasting menu. Begin with snacks such as a potato crisp topped with blobs of whipped oyster cream and seaweed, which eats like a pimped-up Walkers, before moving on to more substantial ideas, including strips of pork complemented by crumbly black pudding, a slick of smoked eel sauce and a shard of crackling that successfully avoids tooth-breaking territory.

We also liked dipping into a bowl of astonishingly good nugget-like bites – buttery chunks of rabbit in a coating of fried breadcrumbs, elevated by a potent smear of horseradish and pickled plum.  

Cochran may have earned his stripes at the two-Michelin-starred Ledbury, but 1251 sees him successfully blending fine ingredients with his Caribbean heritage in a casual setting complete with a hip-hop soundtrack. Make no mistake, this is a thoroughly modern restaurant with the charisma and individuality to stand out from the Upper Street crowd.

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - £30 - £49
Caribbean, International
Cool, Fun, Lively, Quirky, Unique
Other Awards
SquareMeal London Top 100
Food Occasions
All day dining, Sunday roast
Alfresco And Views
Outside seating
Special Features
Vegetarian options
Celebrations, Dates, Special occasions
Food Hygiene Rating

About 12:51

With a blend of Caribbean and Scottish heritage, James Cochran was arguably born to create interesting food. Even so, his journey from an oyster bar in Whitstable to the two-Michelin starred Ledbury, then to winning Great British Menu and opening his own restaurant in the same year is awe-inspiring. What's just as impressive is how affordable he has managed to keep 12:51 since opening in 2018. Diners can enjoy a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings for a bargain, or without the pairings for a steal. Somewhat unexpectedly, 12:51 also offers a Sunday roast, further demonstrating this restaurant's honesty and lack of pretentiousness. 

For those who aren't as familiar with Caribbean cuisine, a tasting menu at 12:51 is a really fun introduction. Staple ingredients like brown shrimp or cornmeal are elevated to new heights in beautifully plated creations. Your tasting menu might start with crispy cornmeal, smoked cod's roe and toasted seaweed, providing a smokey, salty kick-off to your culinary experience. Heading into a more earthy direction you might be given celeriac with spendwood mousse, walnut and apple, before veering back into the sea with a potato dumpling, brown shrimp and crab and wild garlic. Just before dessert, you'll likely have something more hearty, like Welsh black pig with mushroom XO and mojo verde salad. Finally, a punchy often boozy dessert will finish the tasting menu, which could be a mascarpone ice cream, chocolate mousse and chocolate coffee soil topped with a whiskey snap. Vegetarians are well cared for, with creative alternatives to meat swapped in such as roast confit cauliflower or goat's cheese. 

Sunday lunch will give you a proper feast, including 42-day aged sirloin, horseradish cream, cauliflower cheese, carrot puree, chargrilled hispi cabbage, beef dripping roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and smoked bone marrow gravy, all without breaking the bank. 


Who is the head chef at 12:51.

James Cochran is the chef and owner.

Helpful? 0

Location for 12:51

107 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1QN

079 3420 2269


Opening Times

Mon Closed
Tue Closed
Wed Closed
Thu Closed
Fri 12:00-15:00
Sat Closed
Sun Closed
Mon Closed
Tue 17:00-22:00
Wed 17:00-22:00
Thu 17:00-22:00
Fri 17:00-22:00
Sat Closed
Sun Closed
All day
Mon Closed
Tue Closed
Wed Closed
Thu Closed
Fri Closed
Sat 12:00-22:00
Sun 12:00-20:00

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