Apparently this restaurant opened a few months ago. I spotted it during the Edinburgh Festival, but thought it was just a pop-up. Then, when my other half was en route to meet me for dinner at Ting Thai Caravan last week, somebody leafleted him with a copy of the menu.
Oh my, it looked good. We nearly abandoned our massaman plans, but instead Checkpoint went straight to the top of my list, and we made it along a couple of nights later.
It’s obviously not just my radar that this place has slipped under, as it was morgue-like inside. The lack of fellow diners was thrown into stark relief by the size of the space, which is huge enough that it can make a feature of a massive orange shipping container. (We liked to imagine that this was assembled like a ship in a bottle.).
This was originally a Seventh Day Adventist Church, built in 1899. On the way down to the toilets, you’ll see the original late-Victorian moss coloured tiles and stained glass windows above the original entrance – a contrast to the utilitarian hipster-ishness of the main space.
This new eatery is open from 9:30am until midnight, and the menu features BREAKFAST (truffled girolle mushroom with curried scrambled eggs, £8), BOWLS (trendy soupy things), PO’ BOYS (a Louisiana take on a sub) and loads of other bits. From the LESS SUBSTANTIAL STUFF list, we kicked off with chicken wings with tahini and sesame seeds (£5). These turned out to be dinky little flappers slicked with a nutty foundation-coloured paste and an ascetic sprinkling of seeds. The quality of the meat was good, but their coating was rather bitter. They needed salt, pepper, or something else.
A bowlful of seven fat finger-sized pork and prawn spring rolls (£5) were better – deep fried and parcelled by a thick crunchy coating. Maybe it was the accompanying soy and ginger dip, with a tang of rice wine vinegar, that made them taste so good.
"The dark chocolate fruit and nut pavé was silky, rich and raisin-studded"
My main – a chargrilled 7oz flat iron steak with roasted beetroot and girolles (£12) – was strangely disappointing. While eating it, I felt like I was having a disconnected out of body experience, as if I was watching myself munch the meat, but not experiencing any of the sensations associated with this. It tasted of nothing, apart from vague earthiness from the cubes of beetroot and girolles heaped on top.
Luckily, a side salad of papaya, ginger, radish, cucumber (£4.50) was the opposite of my main course flavour vacuum. It was a fab combo, with papaya chunks and the black full-stops that are its seeds, as well as peppery radish slices, crunchy cubes of cucumber flesh and a gingery hit. Addictive.
The second of our main courses was better, with two chunky fishcakes (£8) that were made of salmon, smoked trout, lemongrass and horseradish. However, their barely there flavour was rather overpowered by a helping of coconutty Keralan curry sauce, which was flanked by a halved boiled egg with runny yolk. For the price, though, one can’t moan too much.
For pudding, we were told a banana tart tatin (£6) would take ten minutes or so, but it arrived suspiciously quickly. Indeed, the pastry disc was semi-raw, but we ate the sliced banana, toffee sauce and vanilla ice-cream. In contrast, the dark chocolate, fruit and nut pavé (£6) was gorgeous – silky, rich and raisin studded, like an upmarket Picnic bar, with a scoop of retro raspberry ripple ice-cream on the side.
The concept and interior of this place is marvellous, but, aside from a few glimmers of genius, the food needs work. Perhaps they’ve been so quiet about their opening because they’re still experimenting. I’d say, if you want to visit, give it more time. As it stands, Checkpoint has more ups and downs than hymn time at a Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks - £46.50