Small Cheque at Checkpoint
Itâ€™s not often I have already visited a restaurant I review, and I usually prefer to check out unexplored eateries, however one place I was very happy to be returning to was Checkpoint.
Located in Bristo Place, near the Museum of Scotland, Checkpoint also happens to be a short walk from my workplace, and so news of its sweet potato fries had reached me a while back. Also, Iâ€™d passed when it was a hippy-ish looking hangout with an arts venue vibe and slightly odd-ball appearance â€“ it hadnâ€™t inspired me to venture inside at the time.
Then, around a couple of months ago, a colleague suggested it for a group lunch to celebrate her impending wedding. We all loved the decor â€“ light, bright and super spacious with an uber-cool interior. In fact, there is an entire shipping container cleverly incorporated into the dining area which breaks up the space in a way rival restaurants must just dream about.
Feedback about the food was equally positive; in a market as crowded as Edinburghâ€™s, discovering somewhere as good as this, which doesnâ€™t put you into overdraft, is a real find.
For this review, I took two colleagues, both of whom had already eaten there more than once, but were as eager as me to revisit those sweet potato fries, plus an exciting menu which caters well for vegetarians, gluten-free and vegan diets.
There are many strong selling points here: when it comes to value for money, you would be hard pressed to beat Checkpoint. Bowls for nutritious Â£5 meals offer more than enough to sate most appetites. Two of us chose a bowl: one colleague picking seared steak ramen (a Japanese noodle soup), and I ordered Cullen Skink. The third of our group selected a Korean chicken and kale Caesar salad. We shared Heritage carrots, toasted seeds and honey and a portion of the now-famous fries.
My Cullen Skink was deliciously creamy, packed with plenty of smoked mussels, Arbroath Smokie and rarebit crouton â€“ a hunk of bread for mopping up purposes would have given my dish 10/10, but Iâ€™ll know to order some next time.
My colleague raved about the Korean chicken. In fact, we all tasted it and it was the winning dish of the day â€“ the kale wasnâ€™t in the slightest bit bitter, having been blanched, and there was a â€œtonne of chickenâ€ in the Â£5 bowl with â€œnice chunks of cheeseâ€.
The steak ramen had a more luke-warm reception; there was a mound of fresh coriander and a â€œgood balance of flavoursâ€ but it was tricky to eat the large pieces of meat swimming among the soupy noodles. An 8 out of 10 was my colleagueâ€™s verdict.
The sweet potato fries were indeed excellent â€“ crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and incredibly more-ish. They came with a little pot of zaatar yoghurt dip which was quite runny and we felt didnâ€™t add anything in particular to the fries â€“ they were perfect on their own.
The Heritage carrots on the other hand, were a wonderful side dish â€“ and it was heartening to see dark purple and yellow-ish coloured carrots alongside their more familiar orange cousins in the mix.
Being a lunch break, we reluctantly skipped the fascinating-looking desserts (upside down pineapple cake or salted caramel ice cream anyone? Or maybe chocolate, avocado and chilli mousse?) and returned to the office, but a return to Checkpoint is most definitely on the cards.
Prices: starters/light-bites Â£3-6.50; salads Â£4.50/7.50; Â£5 bowls; mains Â£7-17; desserts Â£6-7.
Checkpoint, 3 Bristo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 1EY. Tel: 0131 225 9352.