It seems to have taken forever but the Newtown Hotel has flung its doors open. Gone is the Freaky Tiki pop-up venue and in its place is a polished bar surrounded by padded retro booths and urban art murals. The space in which Bamboo Dumpling Bar once sat, and the pool room a long time before it, is now an open-air beer garden. It looks like our beloved drag queens are set to return to the small stage in the front bar, reminding us that this pub was once the states oldest continuously-running gay venue.
The first thing you notice with The Newtown is the vibrant green colour and that beautiful wrap-around balcony. The original building had one but it was demolished to make way for a drab awning. Walk past it now and you can see punters up there from noon until 10pm, watching the people parade down below. It sure is a perfect possie to kick back with your mates on a sunny arvo, booze in hand and something to nibble on.
The nibbles are of the modern Greek variety from the upstairs restaurant The Animal. Cool name. Cool space. More urban graffiti on the walls, booth and table seating, even a mocked-up caravan concealing a semi-private dining room.
There are your typical pub-style bites (with higher-than-pub-prices) like dips, olives and croquettes plus a bunch of plates, dare I say it, “designed to share”. We have spit-roasted meats the likes of suckling pig, milk fed veal and baby goat as well. My beef tri tip (18) was where things started; skewered pieces of overcooked bottom sirloin, very sparsely spiced with cumin and paprika. A beer or cider would have gone down nicely but the liver was on a two week break. The John dory fillet (19) was mediocre, sprinkled with flavourless chilli and none of the garlic that was mentioned on the menu.
The winner at the lunch table was obviously the grilled scallops (18). Perfectly seared, slightly undercooked as they should be, and sat upon a beautiful taramosalata lightly fragranced with orange blossom water. A tomato and basil salsa and trout roe just made it even better. A few Greek desserts are offered but it was just one that was chosen. Mini baklava rolls (13). I’m not sure what was so mini about them as the three rolls seemed pretty big to me. No gripe here, though. Off to the side is a plump compote fig, a dab of vanilla ricotta and a sticky slick of salted caramel. Yeah baby.
Whether you’re here for the booze, food or the view, The Newtown is set to become a King Street fixture once again.