The trick to finding a good feed in Newtown at the moment seems to be hidden in the pubs.
From The Bank Hotel revamping their menu to the Marlborough Hotel opening Miss Peaches and the addition of The Animal above the Newtown Hotel there are plenty of good food options hidden just behind the pub façade.
Downstairs at the Newtown may not seem like the right place if you’re looking for a nice sit down dinner, on any busy night the bar will be pumping and burgers will be continually flying out from the kitchen.
But if you head straight through the bar, towards the giant mural of a lion marked with the words ‘Warning! Don’t feed the animal!’ and up a small, dark flight of stairs you’ll emerge somewhere quite different.
On first impression The Animal seems to have the décor of a very artistic hoarder.
The walls are plastered in different black and white images and signs, there’s a rocking chair hanging from the ceiling, several small topless statues dot the room and to prove the point the decorator was not one for throwing anything away- there’s even an old school caravan in the restaurant.
Despite the eclectic assortment of decorations the space seems warm and inviting.
The restaurant is dimly lit and the tables are surrounded by a cosy wraparound couch adorned by small cushions.
The food here is Greek and the cuisine is well suited to the homey atmosphere.
Many of the plates are ideal for sharing; that is if you want to be so generous.
We started with the fried green olives with feta and chilli crumbs. The textures blended well together, with the crisp exterior giving way to the bite of the olive stuffed with warm, soft feta cheese
The chilli hit is strong but fleeting and makes you want to go back for more.
We also tried the taramasalata, a thick, creamy dip made from olive oil, fish roe, breadcrumbs and seasonings.
The roe makes the dish quite salty but it’s lightened up with soft, warm triangles of pita bread.
The taramasalata was probably our highlight of the night and we were quite devastated when we had devoured all the bread without finishing off the dip.
In hindsight I’m glad we didn’t order more bread because we would never have been able to finish the mains.
Essential to Greek cuisine is meat.
Over hot coals.
So of course The Animal has that covered.
Their specialty is coal roasted suckling lamb rubbed with lemon and garlic. The lamb tends to run out so aim to get in early.
Throughout the week they also feature a variety of other dishes from the BBQ pit such as garlic roasted goat, spit roast chicken and pig on a spit.
We were lucky enough to snag a serving of the suckling lamb and paired it with a side of their lemon roasted crunchy potatoes.
The lamb was perfectly cooked and simply melted apart with a fork.
It paired beautifully with the small potatoes, despite their crisp exterior the potatoes were tender and creamy and covered in a strong lemon, caper and red onion sauce.
The meat dishes are an ideal serving size for two people while the sides could stretch further.
I say could because with only two of us we still devoured every single lemony potato on the plate.
After such a feast we couldn’t make it on to dessert but instead sat on our carafe of red wine for a while.
With soft music playing like Lana del Rey’s Young and Beautiful, dim lighting and the relaxed couch seating it is easy to simply make yourself at home.
We lingered for quite a while simply enjoying the atmosphere.
The service is warm and informative with just the right amount of space and the drinks list is extensive and adventurous.
I was a bit wary of the wine on tap to start with but was pleasantly surprised by our 2011 Shiraz.
Ideal for a night out with close friends, you can fill up the table with carafes of wine, plates of haloumi and roasted lamb, plenty of taramasalata and extra servings of grilled bread and enjoy the warm, cosy hospitality.