Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Last Jar


An Irish pub. Too many bad Baileys experiences at Bridie O'Reilly's might make you run a mile, but The Last Jar ain't no marketing gimmick. She's the real deal, and you should make a special trip to check this one out.


This pub was the old Arthouse and is smack-bang on a busy corner. The cars outside clatter over the tram tracks, but step inside and the noise fades away. My maiden name is Reed, and my collection of 50+ sunscreen bottles shows that despite many generations living in Australia, the Emerald Isle still courses in me veins. It started to bubble the minute I stepped inside.


This is the kind of place you could pull up a pew and proceed to get very merry over the course of an afternoon. It's charming and not at all kitsch. The staff we spoke to all had that beautiful Irish lilt that makes even "would you like to see the menu?" sound like a folk song.

And what a song. The Last Jar seem to be on a mission to make everything they can in house. House-baked bread, house-cured salmon - even house-made curry sauce, which from Dublin to Derry is the de rigeur dip for your chip.


There's a beer garden upstairs which won't break any hearts but if you want a bit of sunshine, it does the job.


Do you have a "Do not pass go, do not collect $200" dish that as soon as you see, you just must order? One of my many is mussels. I love the rigamarole of foisting each meaty morsel out of the shells, dunking the bread in the juices, and slurping the last bits of goodness out of each shell - and off the shell itself! These were cooked with cider, dill and loads of sweet onion and served with crisp house-baked potato bread.


This heaping portion of house-cured salmon clocked in at a mere $12. Take a slice of soda bread, apply cream cheese in portions that defy gravity, and drape liberally with smoked salmon. Fabulous.


These beauties had that crystalline crunch that can only come from being carefully twice or even thrice cooked. The "curry sauce" is very Irish - a gravy-like dipping sauce lightly seasoned with curry powder. I'm probably too deep in the dead 'orse camp to fully appreciate it, but if you want a real taste of Ireland, order some up!

On leaving we spied a blackboard advertising a full Irish breakfast, featuring black pudding, sausage, toast and more, all made in house (says the website, "Everything except the egg"). "How much?" we asked. "Twenty dollars," said the barmaid, "but you can get a pint of Guinness for six dollars with it".

Beer. With breakfast. God, I love the Irish.

The Last Jar on Urbanspoon

The Last Jar
Cnr Elizabeth and Queensberry Streets, Melbourne
Phone:  9348 2957

PS:  More Rickshaw Run volunteers still needed!  Read more about the Rickshaw Run here, and about volunteering here and here.  Give me a call on 0438 583 808 to discuss how you can get involved.  And if I have somehow failed to return your call, text or email - I've had a lot, bless you all! - PLEASE feel free to call me back and remind me!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Do you have pulling power? Rickshaw pullers wanted!

Want to know how easy pulling a rickshaw is?


So easy, kids can do it!

Things are hotting up at Rickshaw Run HQ. We've booked the musicians and we've finalised the menu. Most of all, following my callout last week I have been blown away by all the amazing folks who have volunteered to help out so far. But while peeps are keen to marshal, I don't have so many takers for rickshaw drivers yet - so I thought I'd give you a bit more info about it.


So while a volunteer shift as a rickshaw puller goes for four hours, your actual pulling time is less than an hour over the whole shift. There are six stops on our circuit, and the pulling distance and time between them is as follows:

Stop 1 to 2:  120 metres (1 minute)
Stop 2 to 3:  60 metres (45 seconds)
Stop 3 to 4:  50 metres (37 seconds)
Stop 4 to 5:  110 metres (1 minute)
Stop 5 to 6:  40 metres (30 seconds)
Stop 6 to 1:  280 metres (3 minutes)

As you can see - not far at all!  You get a generous rest break in between pulling periods.


Here are a few of your fellow locals who are up for the challenge. Chris on the right is a veteran from last year, while Rebecca, Claire and Luke are keen newbies. I am loving that more women are willing to give it a go this year!


We had a bit of a play around with the rickshaws, and everyone commented on how easy they are to pull - even when fully loaded! It has to do with the big wheels and long handles (physics, man). All you really need is a moderate level of fitness.

These famous local faces are also ready to rumble, rickshaw style:

2013-10-26 11.35.50-1
Tim Watts, local MP for Gellibrand

Grant Miles, Mayor of the City of Maribyrnong

Nam Quach, Deputy Mayor of the City of Maribyrnong

Abdul Hussen from Konjo Restaurant, Footscray

Again, the shifts available are:

Friday 7 March
Dinner - approximately 5pm-9.30pm

Saturday 8 March
Lunch - approximately 11.30am-3.30pm
Afternoon - approximately 2.30-6.30pm
Dinner - approximately 5.30-9.30pm

Sunday 9 March
Lunch - approximately 11.30am-3.30pm
Afternoon - approximately 2.30-6.30pm
Dinner - approximately 5.30-9.15pm

Monday 10 March (Labour Day)
Lunch - approximately 11.30am-4pm

Everyone who volunteers gets a meal and an official Rickshaw Run T-shirt.

We still need more marshals too - see this post for more details about this role.

Even if you can't volunteer - could you help spread the word? It would be AMAZING if you could stick this poster up at your school, childcare centre, gym, workplace, or on your mirror to psych yourself up in the morning about how awesome you are for giving your time to Footscray. DOWNLOAD IT HERE(The poster looks kind of weird online, but if you click the download button, the pics come up properly.) If you can't get it to download, give me a call or email and I will arrange to either email or post you one.

If you are keen to volunteer or can help in distributing posters, 
give me a call on 0438 583 808.

You can also email me on

And if somehow I have missed your call, email or text from last week - feel free to call back!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Rickshaw Run volunteers wanted!

The Rickshaw Run, Footscray's signature Food and Wine Festival event, is almost upon us.  All but three lonely tickets have been sold out of 328.  We're greasing the rickshaw wheels and sharpening our oyster knives - but there's one thing missing...


A critical part of delivering this event is people power.  The Rickshaw Run was created by the Footscray Traders Association, for the traders of Footscray.  It's a true grass-roots event, and volunteers are a crucial part of making it happen.

Photo by Pier Carthew

I volunteered three times last year.  I always knew I'd have a good time - but I honestly had a great one.  One of my jobs was serving folks at the oyster stand at the start of the run.  When I told one group that we were all vollies, she was quite stunned and said, "People just wouldn't do that where I live".

In the west - WE DO.

Photo by Pier Carthew

There are two types of volunteers required:


You might be required to do any of the following:
*  Take a seat in our cosy marquee and check folks in.
*  Be a "Director of First Impressions" - host folks at their first stop for freshly-shucked oysters, and chat to them about what makes the west great.
*  Serve tropical fruits amid the hustle and bustle of Little Saigon
*  Welcome patrons to each restaurant, and check on their progress.  If they're eating too slowly, offering to eat the rest of their coconut pancake is not encouraged, however.
*  At stations around the course, jobs such as warning pedestrians of approach of rickshaws, or supervising our live music area.

Photo by Pier Carthew


*  Think you've got pulling power?  Test your mettle by pulling a rickshaw.  It is not as hard as it seems - if the dynamic yet tiny Eve below can do it, you can too!


Every volunteer gets a meal after their shift, which is a fun and fantastic way to debrief and meet more fabulous westie folks.  You also get an official Rickshaw Run 2014 T-shirt.  By volunteering, you'll meet your fellow locals, build relationships with traders, develop skills in event management, and get a pass to skip the gym that weekend.  Plus, I will also be your best friend forever.  We're gonna put the 'scray on show - come and be a part of it!

Photo by Pier Carthew

The shifts available are:

Friday 7 March
Dinner - approximately 5pm-9.30pm

Saturday 8 March
Lunch - approximately 11.30am-3.30pm
Afternoon - approximately 2.30-6.30pm
Dinner - approximately 5.30-9.30pm

Sunday 9 March
Lunch - approximately 11.30am-3.30pm
Afternoon - approximately 2.30-6.30pm
Dinner - approximately 5.30-9.15pm

Monday 10 March (Labour Day)
Lunch - approximately 11.30am-4pm

You can definitely do more than one shift, and this would be very welcome.

Please call me on 0438 583 808 to talk about how and when you would like to help.

Even if you can't help but think you can spread this message - whether via your school, community group, workplace or other network - please call me.

You can also email me on

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

HM Quan

Saying you have found great value in Footscray is kind of like saying you've found a tall tree in the Amazon.  But when it comes to dollars and cents, this is one meal that is going to be hard to beat.


HM Quan has a menu of 15 different congees - thick rice porridge that is a popular food across Asia, from the Philippines to Vietnam.  And - get this - every one is $2.99.


But to be honest, the first thing you will notice is not the price - it is the amazingly fabulous fake grass floor!  HM Quan is essentially the gateway to Footscray, being right at the very edge of "downtown" as you approach from the east (in the space formerly occupied by Indi Hots).  I cannot think of a more delightfully zany welcome mat.


So the idea is, you sit down, tick your little menu with a texta and hand it in.  There aren't any right or wrong answers on this quiz, though.  I went for congee with "fish floss", which turned out to be tiny, crisp anchovies.


Some other congees around the 'scray are seasoned, but this one was thicker and quite plain, meaning you can dress it up with your topping of choice, plus the seasonings on the table.  (Though be careful with the fish sauce - the bottle is just an open mouth, like you'd have for a spice jar, so it's easy to be heavy-handed!)


HM's special bun (rice vermicelli) was very interesting and really good.  "Normal" Vietnamese bun has rice vermicelli with julienned cucumber, shredded lettuce, pickled carrots and (if you're lucky) some little buttons of crisp pork fat.  (Yes, that is what those little crunchy squares are - I didn't know for years and ate them with gusto, and now I do know - and I'm sorry to say, still eat with gusto.)  This was almost like a Korean-Vietnamese hybrid, with delicately cooked bamboo and spinach, plus a big dollop of what I think was gochujang (Korean chilli sauce).  Not what I was expecting but really good!  And - $7.99!

Oh and PS - do not try to eat both congee and another meal, like I did above.  You will not be able to - the congee looks small but it is really filling.


I only found the Vietnamese version of the menu after I ordered when I realised I'd missed my new current obsession - banh trang.  They are translated on the English side as "rice paper rolls" which I can usually take or leave, but banh trang are skinnier versions with a curiously crunchy wrapper, and more intense fillings like beef jerky and green papaya.  (The above is my fave from Co Thu Quan in Little Saigon.)  Banh trang are definitely on the menu the next trip I take to HM Quan!


HM Quan is quite similar to Co Thu Quan (yet definitely different enough to not be a carbon copy).  When Kenny and I were at Co Thu Quan, we had a chat to David, the security manager at Little Saigon.  In his opinion, CTQ was appealing to a younger Vietnamese-Australian generation who didn't want to just hunch over soup, but wanted a more fun - yet still authentic - experience.  HM Quan to me continues in this vein.  If this is the evolution of Footscray - and not chain stores like Gloria Jean's or Macca's - BRING IT ON.

HM Quan (Facebook)
Shop 5, 68-82 Hopkins Street, Footscray
Phone: 0432 423 979

Monday, February 3, 2014

FFB independent tour #2 - Footscray Fresh Food Ramble


So...  My very first independent tour happened a couple of weeks ago and was a ripsnorter!  Here's what Brett and Jenny of West Footscray had to say:

The Footscray Streetwise snacks tour was great fun. We tried dishes from all over the globe; Somalia, Vietnam, Macedonia and Turkey!

The tour is such a great way to explore the many hidden treasures of Footscray. Lauren took us to all the best spots and gave us plenty of tips on what to keep an eye out for. She could even tell us the ingredients of each dish and explain how they were cooked.

A must for any worldly foodie (and those of us wannabes). You certainly won't be left hungry! So much food!

The next Streetwise Snacks tour will not happen until after the Food and Wine fest but I have one last tour happening before I go into total festival lockdown...


This Wednesday at 11am, come on a Fresh Food Ramble with me and discover the electric, eclectic tastes of multicultural Footscray through its two amazing fresh food markets and surrounds. Discover everything from "fish mint" to sugarcane juice to just-shucked oysters.


Do you find the markets a touch intimidating? Or do you want to know where the go-to spots are? Meet the traders and get my insider tips on where to shop and what to buy - like where to get this ridiculously fresh Aussie salmon, filleted to order, for $16 a kilo!


The Footscray Fresh Food Ramble was scheduled to coincide with Footscray Community Arts Centre's 'Spectres of Evaluation' conference, and after a period of being open only to conference attendees, is now being opened up for public bookings.


The tour goes for a minimum of one hour, includes drinks and generous samples, and costs $40 (plus 30-cent booking fee). It is limited to 10 people, making it a lovely smaller group, and includes drinks and generous samples. Babes in arms are welcome on this tour, the only restriction being they must be in a carrier (eg, Baby Bjorn or Ergo) versus a pram. Of course it's fine to have a pram in the market normally, but it's just a bit tricky if there's a flotilla of ten at once!


Browsing Prahran Market last week, I was struck by how good we've got it in the west - and the Sun chose to publish my tweet in this weekend's paper!  Our markets really are the heartbeat of the 'scray. Let me show you around - book right here!
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