Review: The Haven
Boston is lousy with Irish bars. Let’s face it—we’re practically drowning in shamrock-stamped Guinness. But what of the Emerald Isle’s neighbors to the northeast? Where is our Scottish scene?
In Jamaica Plain, of course. Perkins Street is the site of the Haven, Boston’s new (and only!) Scottish bar. And we’re not talking half-assed Scottish. We’re talking haggis-in-your-face, antler-chandeliers-on-your-ceilings, Belhaven-in-your-glass Scottish as all get-out.
Jason Waddleton’s tin-ceilinged, tartan-lined gastropub is every bit as warm and welcoming as its name suggests. From drink and food to atmosphere, the Haven is the whole precariously kilt-covered package. The high hosting standards even extend to the restroom, where the walls are papered with vintage Scottish comics, magazine adverts and handwritten recipes to keep you entertained while you’re on the loo.
Celtic watering hole aficionados may remember Glaswegian expat Waddleton from Matt Murphy’s where he tended bar and booked live music for 10 years. He was also responsible for Manderlay, the ridiculously cool 1930s-style pop-up bar that greeted theatergoers at last year’s interactive play, Sleep No More.
Scotch food tends to conjure visions of festering entrails and vegetables boiled into oblivion, but the Haven roundly dispels any rumors of grossness. Okay, there are entrails involved—but we dare you to try the haggis and neeps ($9) without becoming a full-on sheep lung and rutabaga convert.
Entrees (which rotate regularly) are hearty without being too heavy. The Haven’s beer-battered haddock, paired with thick-cut fries and minted mushy peas ($14) may just be the best fish and chips in town. And with options like the fall vegetable bridie ($8)— a pastry filled with squash, rutabaga, sunchoke, sweet potato and leeks—even vegetarians can get in on the game.
But you really came here to drink, didn’t you? And drink you shall, my friend, from the Haven’s lovingly selected variety of craft beers. There’s classic Belhaven ($6) on tap, of course, but the real fun are the bottles that hail from every corner of Scotland (and a few from the States). Try coastal Kelpie Seaweed Ale ($7), which tastes of both chocolate and ocean salt, or bourbon-tinted Innis and Gunn from Edinburgh ($7).
Drink this: We aren’t exaggerating when we say that imbibing a bottle of Alba Scots Pine Ale ($7), brewed with spruce shoots, is not unlike drinking a Highland forest’s worth of evergreens.
Eat this: The Haven’s beef and ale pie ($18) will fill you up for a week, but it’s more than just heft. From its ludicrously flaky crust to the thick swaths of Belhaven-marinated meat beneath, this one’s as subtlety-flavored as it is substantial.
Sit here: Tables are a good place to lounge with buddies, but the staff and regulars are friendly enough merit perching on a stool at the Haven’s raw-wood bar.
Conversation piece: The Haven recently acquired a music license, meaning that you can look forward to some tunes to go along with your bannocks and porter. First up is Maeve Gilchrist, an up-and-coming Edinburghian harpist.