Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Animal within (the Newtown Hotel)

There's plenty of life on Newtown's King Street but especially so when it comes to casual dining restaurants and pubs.

The Newtown Hotel has been resuscitated by Keystone Group (of The Loft, Bungalow 8, The Winery, Gazebo, Sugar Mill and so on and so forth), after a short stint as tiki bar Freaky Tiki, returning the pub to local drinking hole status without the kitsch (save for drag nights) and a casual Greek restaurant upstairs - The Animal, targeting relaxed group dining.

Chunky chips from The Animal, Newtown Hotel, King Street, Newtown
We got our orders to the kitchen just in the nick of time for a late Sunday night dinner. With a fairly reasonably priced menu, we unknowingly went a little overboard in ordering for two - although it would have been nice had the hip, friendly staff warned us about portion sizes.

We were however warned that there was no entree-then-mains order to the food coming out from the kitchen. The first dishes arrived mere minutes after ordering. About a minute after that, everything else arrived, including my glass of shiraz from the wine taps at the bar.

The chunky, skin-on potato chips were some of the best deep fried potatoes I've ever had. Appropriately seasoned and served thick and fluffy with an aioli, these were wolfed down with little regard for the feast to come.

Grilled scallops, trout pearls, tomato basil salsa
From the small plates section of the menu, the plump char grilled scallops were well priced for the size of the dish and looked a treat, each mollusc topped with bright little orbs of trout roe.

Sitting on a creamy taramasalata and scattered with the tomato and basil salsa, there was almost too much going on, but not quite so much that it distracted from the lukewarm scallops.

Mint and lemon grilled haloumi, red onion salad
The refreshing salad of fennel, beetroot leaves and other healthiness almost outshone the grilled haloumi cheese, which had an appreciated extra mint hit. It wasn't the best haloumi I've ever had but it's a solid dish for sharing nonetheless.

Beetroot, thyme, organic yoghurt, coriander
Beetroot appears to be the fashionable vegetable of 2012 - it's certainly made its way onto many menus beyond a burger bun. The Animal's salad of diced beetroot, natural yoghurt and coriander was an unexpected hit - and a healthy one at that.

Coal roasted suckling lamb, rubbed with lemon, garlic and bay leaf
I was hanging out for the roast suckling lamb, which was served as a huge portion for sharing. The $40 price tag should have alerted me to the size, but I was probably dreaming of lamb sandwiches for lunch the next day anyway.

Served with only a cheek of lemon, the lamb had subtle flavours of garlic and bay, but probably would have benefited from a tzatziki yoghurt sauce, especially to splodge on some of the drier edge bits.

We managed about half of the lamb and most of all our other dishes, despite what covered two tables and looked enough for four. But in a sense it was good that we stuffed ourselves as it turned out The Animal, almost ironically, does not do 'doggy bags' for customers to take leftovers home.

Labelled an "OHS issue", it was a situation that I've seldom encountered in NSW restaurants although it is understandable, especially for venues that are part of a bigger group it seems.

And so we left without lamb sandwiches for the next day, but still generally satisfied with the night's meal. The Animal has unleashed casual Greek dining onto Newtown, and next time, I'll be prepared with a group to attack the feast.

The Animal on Urbanspoon


gaby @ lateraleating said...

That does look like a lot of food! I've read mixed opinions about this place... I guess I'll wait a bit until trying it out.

JB said...

That lamb looks good!

I clicked through to that NSW Food Authority link. Love the following line:
"Restaurants may, however, elect not to provide this service [doggy bags]. In this case, customers can take along their own container (doggy bag) to take food home."


Flick Your Food said...

Big call with "some of the best deep fried potato" Cant wait to try

SL said...

I've eaten there 3 times now and the staff have always been friendly and knowledgeable including warning me about portion size without being asked.

I wasn't given the information about the entree/main policy; in fact in the converse the staff checked with us to see if we were finished our starters before they brought the main, this has happened all 3 times BTW.

I encountered the same issue with takeaway BUT I carry snap locks (as any good Greek woman does) so I took my baklava away anyway.

It's pub food albeit modern so don't expect fine dining that's not the aim.

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

Awesome choices with the dishes. IT all looks pretty darm moreish.

Sherrie Huang said...

Wow the presentation of the scallops is beautiful! Scallops aren't the best aren't they? :D

Richard Elliot said...

Sounds like you might need to start carrying round your own tupperware! :-)

Can you imagine if Asian eateries stopped letting you take away the leftovers?

Hopefully the health and safety police don't start banning it....

john@heneedsfood said...

I think yours is the first review I've read since I was there so it's good to see another perspective. I've gotta say, that lamb does look good. I seriously loved the scallops I had there!

Mr C @ The Food Diary said...

Loving the look of those scallops, I haven't had a good grilled scallop in so long :)

Tina said...

Hi Gaby - Yeah, I'm keen to give it another go; perhaps with a group next time.

Hi JB - Yes, apparently people do that. I wonder if these guys would let me take the leftover lamb if I brought my own Tuppaware...?

Hi Flick - I was particularly hungry at the time... :)

Hi SL - Sounds like a different experience to mine entirely. I think they've since altered the menu price and portion of the lamb...

Hi Tina - There was so much more I wanted to try!

Hi Sherrie - Yup, my favourite mollusc!

Hi Richard - I can see where it comes from, but are we the kind of society that will sue the restaurant for our own inability to store/reheat leftover food? Oh dear...

Hi John - Yeah, but I'm keen to try some of the other roasted meats too!

Hi Mr C - They can be hit and miss, but when they're good, they're so good.

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