Avery Edinburgh: Opening date announced for former Stockbridge restaurant - as chef Rodney Wages discusses menu and Scotland's larder

The celebrated American chef is gearing up to fully open Avery in Edinburgh, a restaurant that takes inspiration from his Michelin Star eatery in San Francisco. He spoke exclusively to Rosalind Erskine about this move, and why the city has a special place in his heart.

There are many serendipitous moments in life. For chef Rodney Wages, a conversation in an Edinburgh candle shop led him to take over the much-loved Stockbridge restaurant, which shut its doors in 2023. Wages and his wife made the decision to move to Edinburgh after visiting in 2022, in what he said is a ‘sweet story.’ “My wife and I were talking about where we could see ourselves in five years time and if it was in San Francisco, which was having a hard time at that point,” he said. “Everywhere we thought of in America, we didn’t think we'd go to so we decided to look at the UK - London or closer to my wife’s hometown (Cheshire) or Manchester, as well as Edinburgh - so we set out on a vacation to road trip from London to Edinburgh. We spent most of our time in Edinburgh and this was where my wife found out she was pregnant so it connected us (to the city).” The couple then began to think about how different raising a child would be in Edinburgh, compared to America. Wages had also been impressed by the culinary scene in the city as well as the life balance he could see himself having. He explained: “In San Francisco, it was a grind. I was spending an hour and a half to two hours a day in the car driving in and out of the city. The hustle and how many restaurants are there, was draining on the creative side, as well as physically. It was a little bit too hard to maintain and have a good work life balance and being with the family.”

Wages has been in the kitchen since he was a teenager, when he saw an infomercial for Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, which he applied for and moved to Minnesota. It was here he’d meet the chefs that’d shape his career which includes stints at the French Laundry in California. This fine dining training which would earn him a Michelin Star. He said: “The experience that we give I think it definitely deserves a star. I think in Michelin's eyes, there's so many boxes that they need to fill that I think you never know. But we are hopeful and wishful for the star.” For now, Wages is on a constant learning curve, discovering Scotland’s larder including foraged ingredients and wild game, which will inspire the dishes at Avery. “One thing that was really exciting for me to move to Edinburgh was getting access to things like the wild game” he said. “In San Francisco we'd have to pay an arm and a leg for pigeons or Woodcocks because in America you're not really allowed to sell wild game, so it’s interesting to see all those amazing birds and venison being available easily.” He’s also been won over by other wild ingredients, as he explained: “There have been a handful of things where I was like, ‘oh wow’. The scurvy grass is like Scottish wasabi. We're just now starting to see some mushrooms, so we're getting the first taste of them. But it's been the seafood that's been really the singing part of Scotland so far for me. We're getting whelks, and cockles, and really beautiful mussels from the islands. It’s cool to see so much variety coming from such a small area.”

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While the ingredients have been a discovery, so has the support and help from other chefs. Wages namechecks Mark Donald, the head chef of the Two Michelin Star The Glenturrent Lalique restaurant, as well as others more locally who have offered their tips, suppliers and words of encouragement. “I was introduced to chef Mark at Lalique and he introduced me to a couple other people that were really influential in the transition of moving here, such as introducing me to purveyors. It has been really refreshing having all these chefs being like, ‘okay let me know if I can help, can I come and help you prep or introduce you to my game keeper, or suppliers?’ Everybody was super, super excited, which is not really common in San Francisco. When I was opening Avery in San Francisco, it was a little bit more of a cutthroat kind of experience.” These local Edinburgh chefs introduced Wages to Jason Gallagher, the former owner of the Stockbridge restaurant, after he found out it was up for sale from a conversation in that Edinburgh candle shop. On visiting the Stockbridge restaurant for dinner before it closed, Wages said that both him and his wife thought the space reminded them of Avery and in a ‘magical way, we felt like we belonged’.

Avery Spoot pie, razor clams, fermented pineapple and noriAvery Spoot pie, razor clams, fermented pineapple and nori
Avery Spoot pie, razor clams, fermented pineapple and nori

As for closing Avery in San Francisco? “It definitely wasn't easy to close. But I think it was a necessary step for my career and also for my family,” Wages said. “It was bittersweet. I remember walking in the door for the last time thinking it was a good run. But this is the next step, the next addition and I am excited to showcase Scottish produce the way that we cook at Avery.”

After a set of preview nights, Avery Edinburgh will open Tuesday-Saturday from 21 May. One thing is for sure, chef Wages is excited and ready to bring his new venture to Edinburgh, which he said is “hungry for a unique dining experience.” Avery, he said, is “extremely different in style to a lot of other restaurants, so it's going to be kind of fun to see as we evolve into who Avery is in Edinburgh.”

To hear more from chef Rodney Wages, search Scran wherever you get your podcasts.

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