Born in 1759, Burns is a beloved Scottish poet: January 25th is his birthday and MQofS is a Scottish place owned by a trio who hail from Scotland and Great Britain. Like all good Scots who run Manhattan restaurants, they host a special dinner on Burns Nicht for what is a national holiday celebrated nearly everywhere in Scotland and even Northern Ireland.
So that’s why last week if you walked by what was once a very, very Jewish corner in the Lower East Side, you’d gotten a serious glimpse of Scottish pride: Burns’ doleful poems and songs were recited and sung, a slew of tartan was on display, a bag piper played mournfully in his kilt and spats as the crowd applauded, and a bowl of Scotch was poured over a two-foot-long haggis, the oft-scorned savory pudding made with minced sheep’s heart, liver and lungs; onion, oatmeal and suet stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and simmered for about three hours. (To us, it tasted a little like blood sausage mixed with kasha, which is to say, fantastic.)
Sadly you will have to wait until a future issue of this magazine to learn more about our most memorable meal–not just creamy cullen skink but neeps and tatties–and to see some pretty stellar photos of bagpiping, haggis, Scotch-drinking and even Aberfeldy-born actor Alan Cumming singing a Burns tune. But we can tell you that just off the heels of an eating and drinking tour of London, where we fell hard for modern reinventions of stuff like mushy peas and bacon sandwiches, we were pretty taken with chef Chris Rendell’s skills cooking the best of Great Britain.
The owners of MQofS also own the Scottish bar Highlands and the new British spot called Whitehall in Greenwich Village, and Rendell manages the Scottish/British kitchens at all three; Whitehall, in fact, boasts mushy pea fritters, which are on the very top of our list of things to try this week, along with sausage rolls with harissa and housemade pickled veg at Highlands. (Rendell is actually from Australia, and worked at the Sugar Club in London and Public here in Manhattan.)
Haggis, on the other hand, isn’t on the regular menu at MQofS–though happily fish and chips with mushy peas is. But haggis is served at Highlands, with plenty of neeps and tatties and whiskey butter sauce. So if you need a fix between now and next January 25th, that’s where to head.