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ARCHIVE EDITION: Haggis and Hospitality at The Haven

Haven, the city's first Scottish pub, seems poised to be more than just a neighborhood-known haunt.

Editor's note: JP Eats! columnist Kate Mason has been in Argentina drinking good wine and eating some of the world's best steaks. In honor of The Haven opening for lunch (which happens today, March 1, for the first time!) we present this archive edition of Mason's column. It originally ran Oct. 7, 2010.

While there's no shortage of Irish bars in Boston, Hyde Square is the only neighborhood to boast the city's first and only Scottish pub. Opened by Scotsman Jason Waddleton, formerly of Brookline's Matt Murphy's, with Ten Tables' former "Chef Wax" on the line, Haven's offering of spot-on Scottish fare, specialty beers, and warm, authentic hospitality suggests this JP newcomer is here to stay.

At its cozy Perkins Street location, there's almost nothing reminiscent of Zon's, the space's former tenant. Haven's bar and dining room areas are airy and rustically done in brick, wood accents and soothing colors. Framed Scottish sports and culture memorabilia prints fill the walls, and antler chandeliers suggest a comfortable lodge-y feel. 

Scottish fare is by no means a light affair, and Haven's menu offers some heavy hitters. The Scotch egg is a popular starter and bar fare fave--a yolky hard cooked egg encased in sausage and deep fried.

And of course there's the national dish of Scotland: Haggis. The Haven's version is terribly rich and smartly offered in appetizer form. What is it? A dish of chopped lamb and sheep offal, oatmeal and onions cooked in sheep stomach, served with Drambuie butter-drenched turnips ("neeps").

There's also the bridie, a rich turnover filled with locally-grown tomatoes, thyme and mild cheddar. 

For even more ambitious and hearty appetites, the Haven dinner menu offers beef and ale pie: A stew of beef strips, kale, potatoes and onions topped with a lard-laden, caraway seed crust. The Scottish fish and chips platter features beer-battered, deep fried haddock served with crisp potato wedges and minty peas, and the chicken tikka marsala plate is a crisp smoked chicken and red curry affair with rice and chard. House-made Cumberland sausage with horseradish mash and mustard gravy is another Haven hearty favorite.

The menu offers a few options for American tastes — a burger topped with Cotswold cheese, bacon and onion marmalade and a curried chicken salad on ciabatta. There's a vegetarian-friendly barley risotto with local king Oyster mushrooms, caramelized corn and pecorino romano, and a half dozen side dishes including roasted kohlrabi, sauteed Swiss chard, minted peas and mashed potatoes served plain or with horseradish or Stilton cheese.

Lighter menu offerings include a simple salad of red romaine, whiskey-plumped golden raisins, candied almonds with a sherry vinaigrette, and a red and golden beetroot salad with Stilton and dried plum dressing. 

Dessert highlights include the buttery, crumbly Scottish shortbread with a chocolate dipping sauce, and the equally rich sticky toffee pudding--two thick slices of pound cake topped with a decadent caramel sauce. Be sure to ask about the kitchen's deep-fried chocolate bar of the day.

Haven's weekend brunch, offered 10am-3pm, puts forth scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, a hearty haggis omelette, oat porridge with fresh strawberries and vegetable "bubble and squeak"--a single fried egg served atop peas, green beans, cabbage and potatoes.  

Licensed for beer and wine only, Haven pours about a half dozen beers on tap and offers plenty of Scottish stouts, porters and ales in bottles. The Belhaven draught pour is a favorite, a mix of smokey malt and hops, as is the bottled Scottish Session beer. Haven also offers a thoughtful and wide-ranging wine-by-the-glass menu.

There's a comfortable vibe at this new Hyde Square haunt. If you hit it at the right time, tartan-clad bagpippers serenade the crowd, who no doubt leave Haven happily full of authentic Scottish fare, drink and memories of this newcomer's warm and convincingly genuine service and hospitality. 

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