Subtly brilliant food in the heart of London. 12:51 stands apart with a knockout menu in 5 plates. Visited with HN Magazine. Paul Conboy @fatfoodclub
Subtly brilliant food in the heart of London – 12:51 is a little unassuming on first impressions, step inside and there is no more than a dozen or so delicately dressed tables in this narrow eatery in Islington. We arrived early and there were few people around; “You won’t be on your own for long” we were told as we took our seats and ordered drinks. Beers come in the form of the London based and celebrated Mondo brewery. Expect Sandford Devon ciders to wines covering the Gasper Chardonnay to a Portuguese Esteva Douro and even Indian Cabernet. The lists are not exhaustive or over complicated but are simple, straight forward and selected to reflect a menu which draws on simplicity done well. In fact, the food and drink here are done extremely well, it is the simplicity which packs a clever punch in making an experience at 12:51 a complete must. We were about to be treated to our best meal in a very long time.
Chef James Cochran has quite the career and his knowledge in food draws together Caribbean, Scottish and London heritage. His first course hinted at St Vincents with a serving of delicious tender buttermilk jerk chicken, scotch bonnet jam, corn nuts and coriander. The ingredients here are fresh, seasonal and locally sourced. We were tonight dining on 12:51’s 5 course taster menu and the second course of chicken liver parfait cherry bakewell tart could not have been better. It was a knockout dish in a tasting menu which had barely even started and fusing the sweet and savoury this way was not only tasty, but indeed very clever.
By the second course chatter had filled the air. In fact, the tables were now full and the atmosphere almost electric. Our glasses were filled before the heritage beetroots, smoked eel, charcoal and hazelnut course arrived. The menu is very much ever changing and champions great tasting produce. It was easy to see why this is a popular place to eat and why so many people now occupied the tables.
12:51 have two AA rosette awards and with a nod from the prestigious Michelin alongside badges of Hardens and Diners Choice, it can be no secret that this place is simply outstanding. The true success however must be tasted firsthand. The gnocchi, chicken butter, mushroom and sweetcorn was a tiny mouthful of explosive flavour, the sweetness and buttery mix paired brilliantly with earthy mushrooms and chicken. This was followed by a BBQ haunch Herdwick bred lamb, courgettes, smoked milk and rosemary crumb which arrived on a plate so well presented that it required some serious time for admiration. Admiration over and the taste was just as incredible. British Herdwick lamb is some of the best tasting lamb around and we were left under no surprise that it had been chosen to feature on tonight’s menu.
The 12:51 tasting menu had been executed by top head chef Matt Stone, who had done everything and more to deliver a tasting menu which we would not forget. The cost of the tasting menu is very reasonably priced and at £35 comes in at the lower price end of fine dining in London. The value is incredible and ensures a true food experience putting together the finest ingredients and best service above everything else. On a Sunday, the team serve up a Sunday roast and throughout September and on certain nights, diners can bring their own wine with a zero corkage.
We finished our evening with an exceptional chocolate mousse, milk ice cream, raspberries, white chocolate and almond. Like everything else we were left more impressed. Enquiring about the name, 12:51 is so called after the teams favourite playlist features The Strokes song by the same name. It is not hard to believe that teamwork, a strong vision and passionate likeminded people have delivered a tasting menu and restaurant experience which is hard to match. Nice work 12:51. Nice work James Cochran.
For more Food & Drink