Once a side dock of Leith’s bustling port, Commercial Quay is now regenerated – a fountain-laden collection of former warehouses sporting bars and restaurants – the poster boy of what a regeneration project should be. Ignoring the hideous metal fish at the entrance and the enormous structure of Victoria Quay, the Scottish Government offices just beyond, Commercial Quay is the sort of place where you can easily spend a summer’s evening sitting out in the sun. Fortuitously spending the evening here was exactly the plan – to taste the famous dumplings of Chop Chop.
I’ve previously been to the Haymarket version (although admittedly a few years ago now) so knew roughly what to expect; but my partner in crime for the evening, Fred, was new to the concept. Both of us though were keen to find out what lay in store. The concept is deliciously simple here – you order cooperatively and it is delivered to your table as it is ready. We ordered four small plates each so there was very little waiting and an almost constant stream of dishes arriving at the table.
Sitting out in their sun-soaked conservatory-like glass front, the phrase that came to mind to describe the restaurant seemed to be ‘a sheep in wolves’ clothing‘. Its Haymarket version seems to fit in perfectly with its surroundings, but here in ‘refurbished chic’ of Commercial Quay, beside the Michelin-Starred The Kitchin, it somehow feels less authentic. All these thoughts ebbed away though once the first dish arrived – crispy potato stings, flecked with sea salt, spring onions and sesame seeds – pretty soon all we were talking about was how addictive it was.
Dumplings are what Chop Chop is mainly known for and what made it famous in the first place (featuring in Gordon Ramsey’s F Word a few years ago). A range of both boiled and fried are on offer; beef and chilli, prawn, pork and prawn, and pork and Chinese leaves were the options we ordered – two fried, two boiled. The fried ones score better, for me, but this was purely subjective and on account of the texture the boiling gives the dumpling’s shell (I wouldn’t turn the boiled ones down though, if that is what I was offered). They’re very definition of more-ish, and don’t feel all that filling, until later and you realise you’ve eaten too many! Four fried in a portion feels about right though.
Our other dishes were an interesting mix. The fishballs in Chinese sauce were very pleasant and worked very well with their lemongrass, the seafood bowl was unusual with some mystery spirals which tasted as nondescript as you can imagine, but the fishballs and prawns made futher opportunities to dip in the sauce from the other fish balls, and that was just what we needed.
Special mention must go to a dish picked at the last minute – the aubergine. Bizarrely colourless (we guess they are pickled in some way first) these slithers of slightly oily vegetable were totally delicious, and are definitely something you should get if you venture down to Commercial Quay for some Chinese. I feel they it was definitely the plate of the evening.
Whilst we greatly enjoyed the food the oddest part of the evening had to be the waiting staff. I had been intending on simply asking for their recommendation, but about a second into our conversation it became painfully apparent that our waiter knew nothing about the menu. In fact they all just looked lost most of the time, coming over with dishes putting them down and informing us that they were dumplings, leaving it up to us to decipher their true nature beyond the painfully obvious. The manager though seemed to be on top of everything (perhaps a little overly attentive to us, knowing why we were there), so maybe he will manage to get his crumple-shirted troupe into shape soon.
We certainly left feeling like we had eaten our fill (perhaps because of the extra dumplings that appeared at our table, with the staff insisting they were for us despite not being ordered) and that there had been some stand-out dishes. The aubergine was definitely a hit and the fried pork and prawn dumplings really worked for us. I’d probably have the fishballs again as well the next time I’m there.
As part of a pleasant sunny weekday evening in Leith – we went for a stroll afterwards, past Teuchter’s Landing and ending up in the Granary for a drink – Chop Chop was great for something a little different to eat. It feels as though it is new and they haven’t quite settled in yet (despite having been there for a few years), but I feel we may have just unfortunate in getting some new staff on the floor (the kitchen staff clearly knew what they were doing). At about £40-45 for two it is not the cheapest place in town, but it is not overpriced either – we would certainly go back, if nothing else just for some more of the addictive potato ‘starter’ and the aubergines.
Our dinner was paid for by Chop Chop and their PR agency, Crimson Edge. Edinburgh Editor’s Disclosure Policy can be found here, and if you are interesting in discussing how we can work with your business or that of a client’s please email firstname.lastname@example.org.