It’s fair to say that James Cochran is nothing if not versatile and resilient. So, of course, he wasn’t going to let a little thing like a pandemic stop him cooking. We’ve been lucky enough to have followed his career from the early days, with stints at B.Y.O.C and Restaurant Fix, but nowadays he’s more well known for winning Great British Menu and his Islington restaurant 12:51.
Whilst the doors have been shut on the latter, James has been hard at work developing his signature fried chicken recipe. Around the Cluck is the result – a brand new concept offering pickup and delivery in North, East and Central London, seven days a week.
Building on his arsenal of recipes and techniques as a classically trained chef with experience at The Ledbury (which we’ve just heard may sadly be closing its doors indefinitely) and The Harwood Arms, James is elevating his hero dish – fried chicken, with sophisticated flavours and flourishes. The burgers are undoubtedly the star of the show on this menu, arriving miraculously intact, with crispy buttermilk fried chicken pieces layered up with scotch bonnet jam, blue cheese mousse, crispy smoked streaky bacon and iceberg lettuce in the classic version or with Jarlsberg cheese, mushroom ketchup and truffle mayonnaise in the other.
The chilled Asian chicken salad was generous in size and burst with the zingy flavours of spring onions, fish sauce, cucumber, mint, lime, soy, Thai basil, coconut and crispy shallots. Sides are really well priced – we loved the crispy new potatoes with jerk butter, broccoli florets dotted with miso peanut sauce and the tangy smacked cucumbers. You can also opt for a piece of buttermilk Jamaican jerk chicken and chicken gravy mayo on the side – which we’d strongly recommend doing.
Although we’ve spoken about fried chicken a lot, veggies have a cauliflower cheeseburger on offer, which although we didn’t try, does sound pretty delicious. Dessert is covered too and will be changing weekly. For us it was sticky ginger toffee pudding – a generous slice of sponge, covered in sauce in a Caribbean twist on a British classic. This just needs popping in the oven for 10 minutes for a molten lava sauce.
Cochran recollects fond memories of eating Morley’s fried chicken in Brixton as a youngster with his mum, exploring his West Indian roots and culture in South London. “Fried chicken is the ultimate accessible luxury; it brings that bite of comfort so many are after right now. Fried chicken has been a solid part of my culinary journey from winning me a Great British Menu dish to this exciting project we’re working on here. Having initially started delivery four days a week, it’s great to see such an appetite for our chicken, increasing our opening hours to seven days a week meaning we’ve been able to bring staff out of furlough to continue serving our local area!”
Around the Cluck is available to order and pre-order on www.1251.co.uk powered by Slerp within a 3.5 mile delivery radius, Deliveroo and Uber Eats
Monday – Thursday 5-9pm, Friday – Saturday 12-9pm, Sunday 3-9pm
Around the Cluck menu changes weekly, see more on 12:51’s Instagram.