Jay Rayner

The Observer Magazine - - The Observer Magazine -

Kalei­do­scopic cook­ery by James Cochran. Plus, wines of the week


How’s this for an ir­re­sistible of­fer? The web­site jamescochran.co.uk is of­fer­ing you “a unique chance to par­tic­i­pate in the ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess of one ta­lented chef”. Just sign up for one of the recipe plans and for as lit­tle as £25 a week your res­tau­rant could be of­fer­ing the famed James Cochran ® “Sig­na­ture Ja­maican Jerk Chicken. Mari­naded in But­ter­milk and Se­cret James Cochran ® Spice mix”. Lon­don Evening Stan­dard critic Fay Maschler de­scribed it as “the best fried chicken” when she tried it at the res­tau­rant James Cochran E3. You want in? Of course you do. Just one thing. While you may be par­tic­i­pat­ing in the suc­cess of one ta­lented chef, the chef him­self won’t be any longer.

This needs a lit­tle un­pick­ing, given that it’s about the tor­tu­ous busi­ness of trade­marks. To un­der­stand the story, we must go back to late 2016 when James Cochran E3 opened on Be­vis Marks, in Lon­don’s Square Mile. As the name above the door in­di­cated, it was all about the food of an in­trigu­ing half-Ja­maican half-Scot­tish chef, raised in Whit­stable, who had worked at both the e Led­bury and the Har­wood Arms. Pace the fried chicken en he could do com­fort food, but he could also go re­fined. d. Pi­geon might turn up with liquorice. Herd­wick lamb might ar­rive with Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes.

A few weeks ago, Cochran an­nounced he had parted d com­pany with his orig­i­nal back­ers. This meant he had d also parted com­pany with the com­mer­cial use of his own name, be­cause his busi­ness part­ners had regis­tered it t as a trade­mark. Fur­ther, it tran­spired they had done so as a ve­hi­cle through which to li­cense recipes Cochran had ad de­vised while in their em­ploy­ment. Yours for £25 a week. eek.

Nec­es­sar­ily I must point out this is all le­gal. Con­tracts cts were signed and so on. It’s also not the first time some­one one finds them­selves no longer in con­trol of their name. For the last years of his life Antonio Car­luc­cio was not t con­trol­ling Car­luc­cio’s (for which he was am­ply re­warded). ded). There’s a dis­claimer on the web­site point­ing out that Cochran no longer works for the brand and says only that “ne­go­ti­a­tions be­came dead­locked and no deal was struck”. uck”. Cochran had no eq­uity in the busi­ness. What’s pe­cu­liar ar is that they make much of the fact that any­one who buys uys the recipes of the de­parted chef will be ben­e­fit­ing from Cochran’s re­cent ap­pear­ance on tele­vi­sion, by which they mean Great Bri­tish Menu . As I say it’s all le­gal. But that doesn’t stop it be­ing re­ally, re­ally weird.

Cochran told the web­site Lon­don Eater that it had been a “huge learn­ing curve”. Hap­pily, he has moved on to his new res­tau­rant in Is­ling­ton, called 1251. From 107 Up­per Street, Lon­don N1 1QN. Book on­line only at 1251.co.uk Snacks £3-£7.50 Plates £9-£16 Desserts £8-£10 Wines from £17.95 Bold flavours (from left) pork and smoked eel; James Cochran; jerk spiced hake; potato spaghetti; roast onion; con­fit cau­li­flower; and salted caramel ice cream sand­wich

eat­ing there, I can say this. At his best he’s a ter­rific cook: bold, imag­i­na­tive and fun. But there is also an air of just­man­aged chaos about his ven­ture. When I ate there the dishes ar­rived in a weird or­der. Some are bril­liant and some are to­tal head-scratch­ers. Ser­vice comes and goes like cloud cover in April. The space is two long rooms, one on top of the other, reached through what feel like sep­a­rate front doors. And yet there’s enough in­ter­est­ing stuff go­ing on here to stop you grab­bing them by the col­lar and bel­low­ing “pull your­selves to­gether”.

The menu is di­vided be­tween “snacks” and larger “plates”. The kitchen will send them out when they’re ready. They re­ally will and they won’t be stopped. Which is why we get a main course lamb dish first, fol­lowed five min­utes later by a piece of soda bread with whipped but­ter. The lamb is as beau­ti­fully ac­ces­sorised as a Bond Street fash­ion­ista: there’s a dol­lop of whipped cod’s roe, some baby ar­ti­chokes and the care­fully man­aged as­trin­gency of black olive. The meat it­self is just on the “watch me bleed” side of rare. The nutty bread ar­rives in time to dab at it.

More in­ter­est­ing is the caramelised cau­li­flower with

‘The star dish is an umamii bbombb off pork k fil­let, topped with bat­tered smoked eel with an eel sauce, miso and turnip kim­chi’

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