First Bite: The Haven
Boston gets a bad rap as a hide-bound, adventure-averse dining town. It’s the complaint of many a failed restaurateur — they never understood my squid-ink ice cream! — and an easy way to explain why so many restaurants in the past five years have been either steakhouses or upscale pubs.
So, how to explain the haggis? The traditional Scottish sausage stuffed with heart, kidney, oats, and the like is flying out the kitchen door at the Haven, a new Scottish pub in Jamaica Plain. Owner Jason Waddleton, an expat Scot and one of the friendliest hosts in town, says the warm reception has exceeded even his expectations, and he’s an optimist. Granted, the Haven’s version, created by house chef Wax (he’s mononymous, like Cher) is more modestly sized than the Highlands original; plus, it’s flavored with thyme and toasted allspice, and stuffed in beef sausage casing rather than sheep’s stomach. Absent the usual chopped lungs and topped with a Drambuie butter sauce, it goes down easy.
Perhaps we’re more open to novelty when the price is right, and the Haven’s prices are a marvel — just $8 for the haggis and $17 for a beef and ale pie rich with barley flavor and nearly big enough for two. While the kitchen can be inconsistent with salt — a bit too much here, too little there — the affordable tab makes that easy to forgive.
A starter of fennel-scented, house-smoked salmon comes with Finnan Haddie croquettes, lemon crème fraiche, and a refreshing green bean salad. Eat it with the complimentary oatcakes, served with good butter in place of regular bread. Then move on to the fish supper, which features remarkably crisp beer-battered haddock sitting on a stack of thick-cut fries with house-made ketchup. And wash it all down with a pint from the excellent list of Scottish beer.
Are you noticing a trend here? This food ain’t light. But you can bypass the fries for minty mashed peas, or start with a salad of red romaine, whiskey-plumped raisins, and candied walnuts. Or…just give in. The burger, topped with Stilton and Cotswold, bacon, and onion marmalade, is worth the calories, as are the desserts: crumbly shortbread with a spicy chocolate sauce, a delicious cinnamon bread pudding, and the deep-fried candy bar. Like the haggis, it’s a Scottish standard, and a food you have to try at least once. And the Haven is a great place to do it.
2 Perkins St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-2836, thehavenjp.com.