Burns’ night at Montreal’s Dominion Square Tavern

It’s the time of year where folks around the world get together in celebration of Robert “Robbie” Burns, the Scottish poet from Ayershire who passed away in 1796. As an homage to the man – and in particular to his poem “Address to a Haggis” – his friends held a dinner in memoriam which eventually morphed into a general appreciation day for Haggis, Burns and all things Scottish.

Considered as Scotland’s national dish, Haggis is comprised of sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs), oats, onion, spice, stock, all cased and cooked in an animal stomach. Though this may come off as the most repulsive thing you could ever imagine eating, it’s the type of thing that deserves being tasted first and asked about later, as most who’ve had Haggis will acknowledge that it can be remarkably good, tasting something like a doped up turkey stuffing.

After a trip in Scotland, where my waistline and I indulged in Haggis with eggs every morning, I played with the idea of making my own haggis back home in Canada… There were many obstacles to my little fantasy project, most notably finding a stomach to cook.

Call it a holiday miracle, but I realized over a pre-new year’s dinner, whilst sharing recent trip stories, that my good pal chef Eric Dupuis and his Dominion Square Tavern kitchen team were working on making Haggis. Seriously. They were organizing a special “Burns night” menu, and Eric gracefully invited me to assist while they prepared the meal.

Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

It was -38 degrees Celsius in Montreal when the day came. As I walked into the restaurant to the sound of the drip of the coffee machine, I was as excited to be someplace warm as I was to see the well-organized kitchen team scurrying about their business.

Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Morning coffee, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Chef Eric Dupuis, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal, 2013

I was able to witness the whole haggis making process, along with a few extra perks regarding some of the restaurant’s classic menu items, which I happily photo-documented to share with you.

To start, I was introduced to Treacle Tart – a British classic that I’d never heard of or tasted. Quite simply, it is made with golden syrup (which is inverted sugar syrup, eggs, breadcrumbs and orange). It reminded me of a maple sugar pie in some ways, but the syrup and the orange give it a chewier texture and a slightly tangy taste.

Treacle Tart, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Golden Syrup, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

I also got to see the sticky toffee pudding in the making, one of my favourite deserts. The light pudding is cooked and poked with a knife before being covered with a sweet toffee sauce that will absorb into the cake for a dense and gooey end result. The Tavern serves it in its beautiful country inspired dishware, accompanied by coffee ice cream.

Sticky toffee pudding in the making, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

The Dominion also prepares its own cured meats and sausages – a pleasant array that includes blue cheese dry sausage, pork flavoured with cumin and coffee beans and duck breast turned into the likes of a prosciutto. Home-made all the way. 

The haggis making process had begun when I arrived at 9am. The kitchen staff had dunked the innings in water to cook for about 2 hours. Meanwhile, the rest of the preparations were on their way: spices were rounded up,  onions were cooking and Irish oat was roasting in the oven.

Roasting Irish oats, Dominion Square Tavern

Roasting Irish oats, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Bertrand Lefrançois generously explained the research process involved to find all the necessary ingredients for home-made Haggis. Amongst the challenges, Lefrançois and Dupuis – with impressive thoroughness – went to great lengths to find the right type of oat. After searching in vain amongst local producers and distributors, they eventually managed to get in touch with an Irish producer and got the real stuff specially delivered to Montreal.

Once the innings (tongue, heart and liver, in this case) were cooked, the cooking water was reserved for the assembly of the ingredients. Everything (including a generous quantity of rosy fat) was patiently pushed through a meat grinder before being seasoned and mixed-in with the roasted oats and ladles of cooking juice. Jean-Simon Petit was the man in charge.

Cooked innings, Haggis, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Meat grinding, Haggis, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Grinding the innings, Haggis, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Mixing the Haggis, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Another challenge on the “Road to Haggis” adventure was finding and ordering animal stomachs. After much research, “beef cap” (the larger intestine part of a cow) was used and provided a very similar result. The caps were cleaned and dunked in water and lemon for an hour before being filled with the ground meat and barley mixture, much like sausage.

Haggis on its way to the tubes, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Pushing the Haggis, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

The team inspecting their first ball of Haggis, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Bertrand Lefrançois and his creation, Haggis

When an impressive count of 48 haggis balls was reached, all were tossed into a large pot and cooked in water for 2 hours. The end result gave sausage-like swollen balls stuffed with steaming goodness. Ready for Burns’ night!

Cooked Haggis, Dominion Square Tavern, Montreal

Now that you know how it was all done, here’s a sneak-peak on the prepared special menu:

Haggis dinner for two with mashed potatoes & turnip

Whisky glazed sauce

Served with a fine glass of 12-year-old Glenfarclas single malt Scotch Whisky.

Haggis plate, Dominion Square Tavern, 2013

The rest is history, and if you haven’t already made plans for this Saturday night, I suggest you rush to the phone to make a reservation if you still can. Here’s hoping the waiters, true to the tradition, will recite a bit of Burns’ poem as they bring Scotland on a plate!

Dominion Square Tavern

1243 Metcalfe Street, Montreal




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Categories: Out and about


Aspiring food writer, serious traveler, media enthusiast and communications specialist from Montréal, Canada. www.facebook.com/LavoiealaBouche Follow me on twitter @aalavoie

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