James Cochran EC3 in the City
For the plenty of suits working in the city and looking for a great place to eat and drink, Bevis Marks, situated between Aldgate and Liverpool Street, has recently seen an exciting new culinary addition in the form of James Cochran. Named after its owner and head chef, this is Cochran’s latest venture since departing from the coveted Ledbury restaurant in West London, where he had a hand in helping it maintain its Michelin status. Following collaborative work with BYOC in Soho, Cochran is making his mark as a solo chef, with BYOC East occupying a separate basement space.
Walking in, interiors are simple and unfussy, with large wooden tables and white leather banquettes made to fit large groups of patrons for lunch and dinner. Light fixtures are abundant, with low-hanging filament bulbs adding a soft glow throughout the space, accentuated with the help of candles on the floor and on each table. Blues music plays away in the background, giving a cosy and relaxed feel to the restaurant.
A bottle of Montogoli Amarone wine from Italy is the perfect winter warmer at this time of year, and a wonderful accompaniment to our chosen bar snacks, which arrive in quick succession. Brown Shrimps, served with feuille de brick, are refreshingly cool and creamy without being heavy, packing a serious punch of herb from the dill. Black and white sesame seeds add colour and a nutty finish to each bite, while the brick pastry is the ideal tool for scooping up mounds of the little shrimps.
Alongside this, we try one of Cochran’s signature dishes, which has been inspired by his mother’s St Vincent origins. The Jamaican Jerk Buttermilk Chicken is made up of a heavily spiced outer layer, hiding within it juicy brown flesh that is tender from the buttermilk. Unlike many fried options, it isn’t in the slightest bit greasy. Instead, it’s light on the palette, with sweetness and warmth from the pickled scotch bonnets adding just the right amount of heat. Toasted corn nuts are a fun surprise, adding another savoury element and further enforcing the snack feel of the dish.
The Salsify Fritter we have next doesn’t quite match up in richness of flavour and profile to its bar snack counterparts. Still, it hardly offends.
In texture and in taste, everything on the menu is thoughtful and considered, and the Roast Monkfish is no exception. Being a meatier fish, cutting into it gives the impression of overcooking, but the result is tender pieces of fish, elevated in flavour with sharpness from finger limes and firmness from diced turnip and crunchy buckwheat. A very slight let down here is the charred turnip, which has been taken just that little bit too far, adding bitterness that knocks the dish slightly out of balance.
Working our way up from small plates to large, we finish our savoury courses with Kent Coast Seabass and the Roast Breast and Leg of Guinea Fowl. Served with a fragrant roast onion tea, griddled cauliflower and sea vegetables, the fish is soft as butter, with a satisfyingly crispy skin. The fragrant tea is a welcome feature, with a sweetness from the roasting of the onions, and further perfume offered by sea vegetables that garnish the plate. The latter option is equally well executed, with well-cooked poultry dressed with chestnut puree and a sweet apricot jam, both elements working together to create a nicely seasoned, comforting dish.
To finish, we are unable to resist the Snickerbockerglory, which speaks for itself, but is even better in reality than it sounds, with chewy caramel pieces garnishing a tall glass of rich peanut and layers of flavoured creams. This is an absolute winner that reminds us of our childhoods and leaves us delighted and vowing to return. A Jersey Milk Parfait is nice enough, if a little on the icier side of frozen, its flavours light and clean after a long meal, with sweet and tangy pineapple chunks and handfuls of scattered milk crumb.
The food on offer at James Cochran EC3 confidently shows us the reasons why the chef has made such a great name for himself over the past few years, as the flavours on the plate and careful cooking techniques exhibit talent and consideration for produce and making local ingredients sing and speak for themselves. We just hope that the location and the empty city streets at night won’t hold this fabulous place back from receiving the attention it so deserves.
Photos: Matthew Pull
To book a table at James Cochran EC3, 19 Bevis Marks, London, EC3A 7JA, call 020 3302 0310 or visit here.