The Newtown Hotel might look like a stack of bricks lumped on the busiest part of King Street, but once you pass through the skinny wooden doorframe it's as if you've stepped through a wormhole into an expat bar in somewhere in Polynesia.
Having collected your jar of modestly priced beer from the bar, pull up a patch of AstroTurf, plonk yourself under a plastic beach umbrella and get comfortable because chances are you'll be staying awhile. The décor might be tacky, but after a beer or two everything will go fuzzy around the edges, and suddenly the Calypso music and flower garlands make the daily grind of reality seem very far away. There are also enough random playthings - including a whole gaming room - to keep you amused if you're easily bored (or your date is a snooze).
On tap you'll find Coopers, Bulmers and a few other standard offerings. The wine list is limited. Jugs of cocktails are a better bet with Mai Tais and Zombies served up the size of fishbowls. What the bar lacks in choice it makes up for with good value for money and a pile of specials rotating on a nightly basis. The Sunday deal, for example, is an intriguing-sounding $20 roast suckling pig. Fresh Meat Friday's the meat raffle. Foodwise, the house specialty is dumplings and if you show up between 4 and 7pm any day of the week you can get a plate for $5. And you should – because they are excellent.
Like most places in the neighbourhood, it's gay-friendly and has a steady stream of traffic every day of the week. On quieter nights they're an interactive crowd and you can expect to be called into an argument over Bon Jovi or handed a ukulele to demonstrate your skills. Towards the weekends the crowds pick up and the only company you'll get that you didn't bring with you is Revenge of the Nerds played continuously on one of the house plasma screens. The novelty factor of the Newtown Hotel might wear thin after awhile, but it's worth checking in to see where the evening leads you. And make sure you stop by soon – the owners are planning another refurb in six month's time to rework the upper levels and make the venue even bigger.