26 Sep The Last Jar, Melbourne CBD
Since 2011, The Last Jar has been serving up traditional Irish cuisine out of the former Royal Artillery Hotel building, which was previously home to The Arthouse. Having originally met whilst working together at Michelin-starred The Commons in Dublin, Siobhan Dooley and Tim Sweeney now co-own and run this Irish gastropub. Sweeney has an impressive CV, working at other Michelin-starred restaurants including Petrus and Thornton’s (by Gordon Ramsay) and also Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant.
The kitchen at The Last Jar makes as much as possible from scratch, from the bread and butter to the sausages, bacon and smoked fish. We took our seats in the dining room and were given two varieties of house-baked bread: potato bread and also soda bread with oats and fragrant hints of treacle (or perhaps honey).
Recently introducing some new items in time for Spring, the straightforward menu categorises dishes under the headings: oysters, snacks, soup and small dishes, vegetables, fish, meat and sides. The whiskey-cured salmon had a gentle sweetness to it and, to my delight, came with more of that delicious soda bread.
Some people recommend avoiding specials-of-the-day, but on this occasion the special ended up being our favourite dish. The tender ox tongue was almost melt-in-your-mouth and accompanied by garlic puree, sorrel, spring onions and tasty braised peas. It was a pleasure to look at and a joy to eat.
The salt ling potato cake was topped by a crispy, oozy, battered egg and a apple and watercress salad. Mum thought the potato cake was a tad dry, but I thought it was fine with the egg yolk and moisture from the light and refreshing salad.
Seaweed might be something people are more likely to associate with Asian cuisines but it’s actually used traditionally in some Western countries as well, including Ireland. A barramundi fillet was wrapped in seaweed, served on a bed of kale and smoked mussels and paired with mustard cream. The barramundi was cooked perfectly and went wonderfully with the light mustard sauce.
The Last Jar also has a charming beer garden upstairs, which is equipped with both heaters and shade sails, providing an inviting space in which to pass time with good company.
I loved the fact that the menu showcases both the hearty Irish fare people tend to think of when they first picture Irish food, but also fresh, delicate options. Friendly staff, a variety of different settings, and food much better than run-of-the-mill Irish pubs combine to make The Last Jar a great destination for a variety of needs and a great time.
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at The Last Jar as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by the restaurant in any way.
The Last Jar
616 Elizabeth St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9348 2957