‘Twas a wint’ry Melbourne eve… perfect conditions to have accepted an invitation to visit The Last Jar in North Melbourne. Formerly the live music venue The Arthouse, new owners Siobhan Dooley and head chef Tim Sweeney have done a fabulous job of transforming it into a traditional Irish pub. The front bar features wood paneling, a cosy snug room and an open fireplace, while the rear dining room resembles a 1950s kitchen, think apple green and cream walls and an eclectic mix of traditional timber and retro laminate furniture. Greeted by friendly Irish staff on arrival, it genuinely feels like you’ve walked into an old family friend’s home
And the menu (some written in Gaelic!) matches the atmosphere: traditional, hearty Irish fare. Making a decision was tough as it all sounded so delicious. We whetted our appetite nibbling on two types of complimentary homemade soda bread served with butter and finally decided on the smoked mackerel paté and the Guinness Welsh rabbit (rarebit). The paté, served with a light herb salad and more freshly baked soda bread, looked like a massive scoop of ice cream. It was the lightest, creamiest paté we’ve ever eaten and extremely flavoursome. The rarebit reminded us of Sunday night dinners of toasted cheese sandwiches we used to have as kids but better. The Guinness infused sauce was oh so more-ish – true comfort food.
Next was main course: the roasted skate wing with slippery jacks, pickled periwinkles, crispy kale and brown butter was a good choice. The strong, earthy flavour of the slippery jack mushrooms perfectly complemented the mild skate flesh. The brown butter gave the dish a richness and the crispy kale some delicate texture.
The Dublin coddle represented everything I think of when I think of Irish food. Traditionally made to use up leftovers, the dish comprised sausage, back bacon, potatoes and carrots served in a rich broth. Again, comfort food at its best. Accompanied by a side of Brussel sprouts, bacon and walnuts and washed down with a pint of Guinness and a glass of Syrah, we could easily have been sitting in Dublin itself!
As much as we wanted to, we just couldn’t find room to fit in one of the two desserts or three cheeses on the menu, nor an Irish coffee or better still an Irish whiskey from the extensive list. I suppose we have to save something for next time. And there will be a next time as we are keen to try more of the menu – including the full breakfast that is served on weekends.
The Last Jar is indeed a great casual pub serving reasonably priced and generously portioned fare.