What: A contemporary, neighbourhood-style bar that's named after Carlos Valderrama, the iconic playmaker captain of the famous Colombian 90s football team, and inspired by the 'player’s much-loved style, fun filled flare and sporting grace'. Billed as 'a bar that shows sport, but not a sports bar', Valderrama's has high spec screens and projectors aplenty that will show upcoming sporting events including the World Cup, and features an eclectic drinks selection and food menu of fried chicken burgers and doughnuts.
Who: James Cochran, chef-patron at nearby fine-dining restaurant 12:51 is behind the project. Crowned the Great British Menu Champion of Champions in 2018, Cochran is a chef with real pedigree. He grew up on the north Kent coast and started his career at Wheelers Oyster Bar in Whitstable before moving to London to work with Brett Graham at both The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms. He went on to run the kitchen at James Cochran EC3 between 2016 and 2018 before leaving to launch 12:51, which explores his Scottish and West Indian heritage.
The food: As well as being a bar in its own right, Valderrama's acts as a permanent home to Around the Cluck, the lockdown-born fried chicken brand Cochran operated out of 12:51 during the summer of 2020. As such, the bar majors in the chef's buttermilk fried chicken burgers, with options including The Original with whipped blue cheese mousse, bacon scratchings and Cochran’s homemade scotch bonnet jam; the Spice Up Your Life, featuring mango chutney, pickled cucumber, curry sauce, Bombay mix, smoked yogurt, poppadom, and coriander; and the Hear Me Now with cheese ‘n’ truffle fondue, smoked mushroom relish and slaw. There's also a plant-based Veganator available featuring a vegan patty, Gochujang, Asian slaw, peanuts and coriander. There's also a range of starters and sides available, including a fried chicken thigh with chip shop curry sauce; and French fries topped with with either jerk spice, gravy and crispy shallots, or blue cheese and bacon. Dessert is dedicated to doughnuts featuring a variety of fillings and toppings, including one with strawberry jam, toasted marshmallow and yoghurt.
The drink: The drink's selection is vast, with a range of 'quirky' cocktails, although its speciality is a frozen margarita. A selection of Beavertown beers on tap also feature.
The vibe: With 48 covers that includes an outdoor terrace, the retro interiors are filled with specially commissioned murals and paintings, including one made from vintage goalie shirts, and pictures by renowned, local artists, evoking classic 90s nostalgia.
And another thing: Cochran hasn't had the best luck launching more casual ventures in the past. In 2017 he opened a restaurant in Islington’s Angel Shopping Centre, but closed it after just a few months, stating that it had been a pop up, although there was no mention of this at the time. In the summer of 2019 he launched a permanent location for his GOAT street food concept at Croydon Boxpark, just months after establishing the brand at Lewisham’s Model Market. However, the Boxpark site shut within six months with the GOAT website closing down at the same time. Valderrama’s, by contrast, feels like it has the scope to go the distance with a modern feel, wide range of cocktails and a tried-and-tested food offer.
163 Upper St, London N1 1US