Avery Edinburgh

Avery, the fine-dining restaurant by acclaimed Chef Rodney Wages has a new home, swapping its somewhat of an ‘institution’ (and Michelin-star) status in San Francisco’s Japan Town to a newbie on the colourful St Stephen Street in Edinburgh. And aren’t we glad the move was made! Chef Rodney and his team kindly invited us to experience the summer tasting menu at this recently opened fine dining restaurant – read on for the full review. 

Known for its eclectic mix of independent bars, restaurants, and boutiques, St Stephen Street is a haven for those who love the curious, the quirky and the inimitable – Avery perfectly adds to the portfolio of eateries in the area.

We wander along the street looking out for something to guide us to our eatery for the evening but there’s no sign in sight. We check our booking confirmation for the street number and located the entrance. This discreet and unassuming exterior adds to the intrigue of the experience that lies ahead.  

Note: After speaking with Jason, the GM, it transpires that they are waiting for a local fabricator to create a new sign based on the original restaurant sign that has been transported all the way from San Francisco – this is the first ‘sign’ (pardon the pun!) we note of Chef Wages meticulous attention to detail. 

Descending a few stone steps, the doors open, and Jason welcomes us into the cavernous space that is stylishly designed. Dark paintwork is complemented by bright and bold paintings by San Francisco-based artist, Victor Reyes – all of which had just completed their journey from San Fran just the day before we visited. The restaurant has an intimate and relaxed atmosphere, and with only 20-covers the aim is to ensure each guest receives a truly attentive and personal service. The background music, bespoke furniture and lighting all add to the urbane yet easy ambience. 

We’re the first guests to arrive this evening so Jason lets us choose our table, his demeanour is warm and personable and worlds away from the ‘stuffy’ stereotype of fine-dining establishments of days gone by. 

We’ve opted for wine-pairing with the summer tasting menu (it would be rude not to!) and kick off the evening with a Crémant that is refreshingly light on the palate. As we sip our bubbles, we’re presented with the menu which takes the form of a rustic cut of heavy paper with one or two words denoting each course, hand scripted in a Japanese style font – a little nod to the Japanese cooking techniques used throughout the menu. The lack of detail on the menu adds to the excitement and anticipation of the dining experience that awaits. 

Chop-sticks and a mother-of-pearl spoon are laid out for us, but we’re told we can use our hands at any point if we feel more comfortable, as the Caviar course is served. It’s a superbly pretty dish that looks too good to deconstruct. But we do. A plump oyster dumpling with grilled anchovy gelée, oyster cream and golden Oscietra caviar is a delectable way to begin our 13 courses. The dish is creamy with bursts of a slightly salty grainy texture. And its colour palette presentation compliments that of the restaurant interiors. 

Next up is the Raw Fish – Langoustine seasoned with sherry vinegar, preserved cherry blossoms and raw sesame. Chef has kindly served it in two halves so it’s easier to eat and is presented on a dish that resembles the inside of an ocean treasure – a fresh and fruity medium-bodied Pinot Blanc compliments the dish. 

A crispy nettle leaf is the base and my favourite element of the Wild Scotland course. Comprising local BBQ Eel warmed in the fire, seasoned with fermented pineapple and lardo from Chef’s uncle – a Norcini artisan in Venice, then seasoned gently with lemon and anchovy. Each of the green elements are foraged by local suppliers and showcases the diverse flavours that Wild Scotland presents. This one is best enjoyed using our hands instead of cutlery! We also take the finger food approach for the Grilled Beets which is a delicate wholegrain tart pastry case filled with beets grilled and dried in the fire and seasoned with burnt sesame. The flavours are earthy with a slightly sweet, almost nutty hint and crunchy texture. It’s presented on a glass case that was acquired from a local antique shop – we love the unique detail and thought that is clearly given to all aspects of this culinary experience. 

I’m not much of an egg fan so to my surprise the next course Farm Egg was (one!!) of my favourite savoury dishes – this slow poached egg yolk is served with grilled English pea braised in cultured butter, wild seaweed, grilled Swiss chard stems. This combo was so flavoursome with the sweetness and tender texture of the peas enhancing the richness of the butter…..yum!! We were also super impressed by the precise cut of the eggshell in which the dish was presented. Apparently, it takes a lot of practice – with an average of 1 in 8 cuts being a success – with the unsuccessful cuts living a happy life in another delicious dish!!  

The courses kept coming at a very comfortable pace, and Chef presented us with: 

Æbleskiver – a Danish pancake filled with Scottish spider crab, grilled Swiss chard and roasted garlic.  

Bits and Bobs from the Sea – another celebration of Scotland’s larder this dish focuses on the coastline of Scotland. Poached mussels, grilled langoustine, fresh cockles sitting in a broth made with seaweed chorizo, in all their juices, and the chorizo foam really packed a punch and all of their juices. The dish was so big it was representative of the deep sea….and of course we dived right in!  

Tortellini in Brodo – this is one of chef’s classic dishes from Avery San Fran. Freshly made tortellini filled with a broth made with cultured mushrooms, sitting in broth made from roasted garlic skins and burnt onion. 

An aromatic, dry and light, Lustau, Manzanilla Pasada de Sanlúcar sherry accompanied these three courses. 

The next dish really captured my attention when a Glenturret 12-year-old was presented, and we were informed that a red wine simply doesn’t stand up to the strong flavours of this dish…..drum roll please!!

“Haggis” but not as we know it. Chef Wages’ version of one of Scotland’s most famous is created using breast, heart, and liver of none other the humble pigeon (barley fed of course!) This dish is presented in whole ‘haggis’ form on a bed of Scottish Thistles, then taken away, sliced, and served with whisky sauce and cherries. Strong flavours and a smooth silky texture on the outside with more ‘chew’ as you reached the middle. I thoroughly enjoyed it, however I could imagine that this is a dish that could polarise its audience.

Venison. When I see this on a menu my whole-body fills with delight. I’d been eagerly anticipating this course all evening and I was NOT disappointed. A chunky square of Wild Sika deer loin, dry aged for 14 days sits handsomely next to a pretty Wye valley asparagus in crispy tempura, adorned with wild garlic kimchi aioli, kimchi jus, raw sesame oil and wild garlic flower. The tempura was so light it was almost invisible, and the Asian flavours superbly complimented their Scottish counterpart. The aromas from the garlic were tantalising and each mouthful melted moreishly into the palate. This was by far my favourite (savoury) course. I could have eaten it five-times over!! Again, the distinctive plate-ware added to the drama of this course. 

An early-bottled vintage Henriques & Henriques Verdelho Single Harvest 2007 single-vineyard wine produced exclusively with estate fruit gently flows from the bottle to our glass in preparation for the opening of the sweet courses. The first ‘sweet’ is not all that is seems when we discover that many savoury ingredients form the Cheese Tart which takes inspiration from a classic American dish, Pecan Pie – another nod to Avery’s state-side heritage. Made with burnt onions cooked in cognac, toasted pecans, Loch Arthur cheddar, honeycomb and bee pollen. The sweet and savoury flavours come together in perfect harmony as the malleable texture of the cheese, stickiness of the honey contrast with the bite of the nuts and honeycomb. 

Custard – this word alone does not do this work of culinary colourful art justice. Expecting something more yellow, and liquid form I am delighted when a bright red ring of happiness is presented on a speckled jet-black leaflike plate sprinkled with delicate petals.  Gorse-infused custard on a light vanilla genoise, macerated rhubarb, sauce topped with strawberries and cognac, mint oil, herbs.  

As Chef Wages said, ‘you’ve never really tasted a strawberry until you’ve tasted a Scottish strawberry!!” And with this dish that is truly the case. 

Les Pins 2020 Monbazillac is the dessert wine served with this phase of the gourmet journey – I’m not usually a big dessert wine fan but this is peachy, with a hint of marmalady-ness to it, not syrupy but actually quite fresh. 

As our last course is served, we’re offered a coffee – I decline as the wonderful fruitiness and vanilla essences are still teasing my palate. The last, but by no means, least sweet course is served. A trio of intriguing bite-size delights that are easy on the eye and heavenly to taste are again brought to our table by Chef along with a detailed description of what we can expect. A white Sesame miso cookie filled with dark chocolate caramel is served on a bed of pinecones (this was my second favourite of all 13 courses) befriended by a black sesame financier glazed with cognac and chocolate bitters, and a white chocolate and popcorn pie with wild currant flower jam complete the trio. What a way to finish the show!! 

Final Thoughts 

Avery was spectacular. An intimate and relaxed vibe, in a stylish setting with the most beautifully presented works of art that tasted even better than they looked. 

Each course was a talking point in itself…..even days after I found myself looking back at my photographs to remind myself of any detail (there were so many!!) I’d missed.  

This is definitely a place to visit for a special occasion and I personally think the atmosphere lends itself better to going as a couple rather than a group. 

Contact Details

Website: www.averyedi.co.uk
Address: 54 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AL

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