616 Elizabeth Street (corner Queensberry Street) Melbourne, Victoria 3000
|Opening hours||Tuesday-Sunday noon-1am (kitchen Tues-Sat noon-3pm, Tues-Thurs 5.30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5.30pm-11pm, Sun noon-9.30pm)|
|Features||Bar, Licensed, Open fire, Vegetarian friendly|
|Payments||AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, eftpos|
|Phone||03 9348 2957|
Since visiting The Last Jar, I’ve wanted to go back every day. I love this place. It’s an Irish pub but not a shamrock-infested sham. Rather, it’s authentic and welcoming, with the humble, sparse decor that adds up to a peculiarly Irish form of cosiness: there’s a dim front bar, a central parlour with fireplace and well-spaced small tables, and a homely rear dining room that feels like eating in mammy’s kitchen.
The Last Jar is owned by Siobhan Dooley from Kilkenny and her Australian chef partner Tim Sweeney. The pair met in Dublin and have worked in fine dining restaurants in Ireland and Melbourne. It shows in the service, which is genuine and professional, and in the food, which is way, way better than I expected. The menu includes plenty of snacks (oysters, crumbled mushrooms), hearty sandwiches (potato, egg and mustard mayo), stews, and steaks with hand-cut chips. There are odd meaty bits (pig’s ear, brawn, ox tongue) but also lots for vegetarians (celeriac pie). Everything is made here, including the butter, bread, sausages and bacon.
What struck me was the delicacy of the food, even in robust dishes. Whiskey-cured salmon is furled alongside whipped cream cheese, a spriggy herb salad and delicious treacly soda bread. A stonking baked spud sees the potato’s centre rumbled with blue cheese and stuffed back into the skin. It’s served with a bouncy salad of shredded witlof and radicchio. Dublin coddle, a substantial sausage and pork belly stew, even has its lighter moments, the sticky but sparkling stock strewn with parsley.
The black and white pudding is spectacular: the black slab of pig’s blood sausage is crispy on the outside and melted within and the white sausage is properly rich, lardy and bready. This pair of puddings stars in the Irish breakfast that’s served from noon on weekends.
Another draw is live music by the fireplace every Sunday from 5pm but I reckon any day is a good day to head to The Last Jar.
Rating: Four stars (out of five)