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Sydney's indie favourite, Newtown Hotel, is back.

Sydney's indie favourite,  Newtown Hotel, is back after a year of refurbishments, and it hasn't forgotten its roots. Still standing in the original 130-year-old building on King Street, the place hasn't just received a new lick of paint, it's been totally revitalised. The hotel's owners, Keystone Group, have transformed the humble pub. Director Paul Schulte told Concrete Playground that they wanted the hotel to represent Newtown.

"I think we have stayed true to Newtown. Everything about this place is what Newtown celebrates," he said.

As soon as you walk in, you can see what Schulte means. The pub oozes Newtown; from local street artists' art adorning the walls, to the cinema on the second floor, which shows indie flicks during the week. And how about the huge Michael Jackson hand hanging over the main stage? "There'll be something happening on the stage every night, whether it be trivia or an arts night," Schulte said.

You may remember the pop up bar Freaky Tiki, which operated in the hotel before the refurbishment. Well, the Tiki is well and truly alive, with cocktails from the former bar that scream rock and roll. "We've paid homage to Freaky Tiki and I think the hotel is a bigger and louder version of what we did," Schulte said.

Drinks wise? Try the Janis Joplin, chamomile tea-infused Jack Daniels, white crème de cacao, Cointreau and lemon ($16), or go for the cheekily-named Keith Richards Coconut Incident, a combo of Lairds Applejack, coconut, lemon and blue Curacao ($18). Both are excellent. The beer and wine lists also offer plenty of choice. For hops enthusiasts, try the Mort Subite Xtreme Cherry Kriek from Belgium ($10). All of the wines on tap are good, especially the 2010 chardonnay from the Yarra Valley ($7.50 a glass).

Outside is another bar area which is perfect during the summer when the sun is out and the retractable roof ensures drinkers won't have to rush inside when it pours.

If you're hungry, head upstairs to the hotel's bistro, dubbed "The Animal". It's got plenty of bark with a menu featuring Greek influences, which recognises the many Greeks who migrated to Newtown. "We decided to go with Greek food based on the heritage of Newtown people. Newtown is where many Greeks lived when they moved from their homeland," said Schulte, "Keystone's executive chef, George Diamond, has Greek roots so it made sense to go with this style of menu."

The kitchen is complete with a whole animal on the spit and table service is offered, but those closer to the bar will have to order there. If you're keen for something to nibble on with your drink, try the mint and lemon grilled haloumi ($16) or the grilled WA scallops with baby onions, red wine, cinnamon and capers ($17). For something more substantial, order the wood roasted suckling lamb rubbed with lemon, garlic and bay leaf ($40).

Oh, and least we forget the balcony. It's perfect to watch the colourful characters of Newtown pass by. Schulte said he was proud that the balcony had made a comeback in 2012. "It was a massive job but I think the locals have really embraced it so far," he said.

Newtown Hotel is a bold reintroduction into busy King St, and is the 'local' that Newtown so desperately needed.

Published on October 26, 2012 by Kevin Cheng

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