Browsing a restaurant’s drinks menu is always an easy way to get the lay of the land, but how good is it when you can bring your own?
If there’s a low (or even zero) corkage fee, supplying the wine of your choice can transform a meal – especially if it’s one you’ve been holding onto for such an occasion. And there’s no need to stop at wine: handpick a mix of new craft beers to try out, or simply grab a sixer of your favourite brew. (Though you’ll want to double-check with a venue’s individual policy on non-wine BYO.)
Sydney has no shortage of BYO eateries, running the full gamut of cuisines. Here are just some of the best spots to bring your own, whatever your mood.
Spice I Am
A well-established anchor of Sydney’s authentic Thai scene, Spice I Am has been drawing repeat diners to Surry Hills for nearly two decades. Founder Sujet Saenkham has cultivated a menu that showcases the cuisine’s richest corners, from spice-driven soups and stacked stir frys to fragrant curries and fresh salads. House specials include roasted duck, whole snapper, soft shell crab and Thai pork sausages, and you can’t go past the signature dish kanom jeen, a fermented rice vermicelli nested in a variety of sauces. While the Darlinghurst location of Spice I Am isn’t BYO, the Surry Hills original sure is – with no corkage fee either.
Mamak co-owners Julian Lee, Alan Au and Clement Lee began with a market stall at the weekly Chinatown Night Markets, recreating the Malaysian eats of their youth in Kuala Lumpur. Soon they were slinging homemade roti canai and satay skewers at their original Haymarket location, before branching out to Chatswood and even Melbourne. Beyond the takeaway-friendly roti and satay selections, dining in lets you linger over sumptuous mains such as fish or lamb curry, stir-fried calamari or tiger prawns in spicy sambal sauce, and Malaysian-style fried chicken, plus vegetarian options. Just save room for the dessert-style roti tisu, and bring along your own drink of choice to complete the experience.
Traditional pizza reigns supreme at Vacanza, named after the Italian word for holiday. And whether you visit the original Bronte location or the Surry Hills spin-off, you’ll certainly be transported. Graze across a slate of pizzas made with San Marzano tomatoes and the Italian soft cheese Fior di latte, or opt for a white pie that eschews a tomato base altogether. For even more variety, settle into a set menu that begins with authentic three-piece antipasti before culminating in your choice of salad and pizza. Grab a special wine from home and take advantage of the BYO option, limited to one bottle per two customers with a $12 corkage charge.
One of Sydney’s first Lebanese restaurants, Fatima’s has been a late-night Cleveland Street destination since 1969. The family-owned institution isn’t just for after-hours takeaway, though. In fact, the menu is full of shareable items ideal for passing around to friends. Try the lady fingers – filo pastry stuffed with either minced lamb or fetta and spinach – and don’t neglect the cabbage-wrapped lamb rolls or perfectly seasoned beef shawarma. And obviously, the traditional Lebanese sides like labneh, tabouli, hummus and baba ganoush are a must. Vegetarians will find plenty to love too, between the rich mushroom casserole and fried eggplant slices, while the absence of corkage fee for BYO is equally appealing.
Dumpling and Noodle House
Potts Point’s diminutive Dumpling and Noodle House might not boast much seating, but if you can grab a table there’s a lovely bonus in bringing your own drop – perhaps from nearby Camperdown Cellars. Whatever beverage you choose, the handmade Northern Beijing-style dumplings are worth grabbing a table for. Market-fresh fillings are housed within doughy shells that are either pan-fried, steamed or boiled, with the pumpkin dumplings popular among meat-free diners. Beyond that signature slate, try the hand-stretched-noodle soups with chicken or veggies, the spicy-salty fried tofu, or the hearty soups featuring king prawns or cuttlefish. After all, there’s good reason this place has been going strong for just shy of 20 years: it’s a casual, neatly streamlined delight.
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