Sometimes you want to bring something a bit special to drink with dinner. And sometimes you want to booze, but just don't have any coin to spare, so require the welcome relief of a cheap date. Here are Time Out's picks of the hottest restaurants in Sydney that let you bring your own, no matter your budget.
This rare Siamese outsider amongst the strong Vietnamese showing in Marrickville is the hidden gem you want to find. Various Spice I am veterans can be found working the floor and while there are similarities between the two venues, here there's a freshness to the cooking, noticeably lower prices and no queuing. Ticks all round. And the fact that they also offer free BYO doesn't hurt either
You can eat here for under $15, there's excellent gelati for dessert, and if you've taken a punt on a date you're not sure about, it's loud enough to hide the awkward silences. Bar Italia is one of the busiest places to eat in Leichhardt, with lines out the door and a room full of hungry punters squished together on benches and tables. Out the back it's all about the baked cannelloni stuffed with ricotta and covered in tomato sauce while out the front, crowds clamour for cones piled high with gelato.
If you like your Thai food authentic, spicy and tasty as the day is long, you've come to the right neck of the woods. Their som tum is the best in town as well as being fab value '96 shreds of green papaya are fired up with chopped chili, peanuts, teeny dried shrimp and cherry tomatoes dressed with a mix of palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice.
Corkage up to $2.50
Everybody likes roti – what's not to like? Paper-thin pieces of dough are rolled out very thinly, fried on a hotplate and folded into little parcels to be eaten with curry. Roti is definitely responsible for the massive lines outside Mamak every night, but keep in mind that they also make one of the tastiest nasi lemaks in town.
The fare at this unassuming Glebe restaurant at the start of Glebe Point Road is exceptional. It's not just the usual gear they do well, either. Order dishes like kibbeh neyeh minced raw lamb with burghal and chilli or the lamb mansaf roast strips served over pilaf with chopped and toasted pine nuts and cashews scattered over the top
Thai food is all about eating little bits of everything at the same time. Try the feather-light redfish fritters or the chicken and prawn wantons and then move onto the grill choices - tender pork skewers amped with roast chilli and ground rice relish and a barbecue lamb that we'll be going back for.
Owner/chef Mitsuhiro Yashio has an eye for detail and his creativity shines in the unusual offerings on the menu. Sashimi (try bonito and scallop) is plated in thick, fleshy mounds and accompanied by fine slices of green shiso. Miso lettuce tsutsumi is a twist on Chinese san choy bow where grainy, almost earthy pork mince sits in snack-sized lettuce cups.
Thin, slightly scorched flat bread is made from dough that's rolled out super-thin, spread out on a hotplate and holds anything from nduja to mozzarella, salami, prosciutto or Nutella. An individual serve is enough even if you're super-hungry, but order a few in a group so you can try everything.
For a really good idea of what these guys can do, ask for omakase – this basically means that you're putting your trust in the chef to create whatever he wants to make for you. In return, you might see raw scampi, lightly seared kingfish, and slices of salmon plumped up with salmon roe.
As Lebanese as you'll find outside the Middle East and bung in the heartlands of the Inner West. It's the rose water Turkish delight we hold so dear, not to mention the cracker baba ghanoush. The garlic prawns here are heavenly, as is the garlic paste generally, so bring a mint if it's a first date.
Xage (pronounce it 'sage') is cheap, it's run by a friendly crew and best of all, is super casual. Make sure to try some of their signature dishes (marked on the menu) such as the slow-cooked pork kho, the slow-cooked beef curry with lotus roots or the yellow curry of chicken potato and okra topped with a mess of green onion.
An affordable seafood restaurant that does BYO and has water views- no it’s not a myth. If your evening involves nothing more than a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine from your nearest bottle-o, you’ll still be living the high life. There are three pastas on the menu and they also serve tasty things on sticks; we opt for pairs of whole baby octopus dressed in a bracingly fresh salsa verde.
It’s all sticks all the time, at this tiny Japanese yakitori restaurant built on the old Jazz City Diner site. The meats are grilled over white charcoal and served over piled of roughly chopped raw white cabbage. If you want something more hearty, try the hand-sized steamed buns filled with pork belly and puffy gyoza, served still in the pan
There're still queues at the first location of this restaurant chain specialising in soup filled dumplings, and with a good reason- these are one of the best we’ve ever eaten. Lava-hot, buttery and fresh flavours compliment each other so well that you should be prepared to order several bamboo steamers worth. The demand for the silky, gossamer-thin skins holding a mouthful of soup has become so great that there’s now have five dumplings houses around Sydney.
They are a friendly bunch at Fu Manchu- kid friendly, vego friendly, even coeliacs get their own special menu at the little Chinese place in the heart of Darlinghurst. They keep on the lighter side of Chinese cooking here- the menu is big on steamed items and if you are just after a snack pork belly buns or a plate of dumplings will hit the spot.
Share a bench outside of an evening and order from the old-school felt pin board, or bunker down at one of the seats facing the wall inside. The dinner service is reliably excellent and make sure you order a side of polenta chips and the brioche ice cream sandwich for dessert.
This is the best pizza in Bondi. But it's more than that. Pompei's is a great restaurant. Play it straight with a margarita or try the broccoli topped with mozzarella and ripped up chunks of pork sausage. They also make an excellent pizza biancho with thin slices of potato, sea salt and rosemary.
You don't get much more Sydney than Sean's Panaroma. The light, airy and tiled room is crammed with tables and Sunday lunch is king here. The menu changes daily but it's likely there'll be a chicken parfait, some sort of hand-cut pasta and whatever fish got pulled out of the sea that day.
Chef Sam Bennett used to work at Glebe Point Diner and it shows in the beautiful, fresh and interesting produce he uses, and his confident, less-is-more approach. You needn't order heaps of food here, but if you do want to go the whole hog, there's plenty on the menu to keep you occupied.
Considering that you will be laying down $200 for a 12-course set menu you may be surprised to find that you can BYO here. It isn't cheap though, so with Tetsuya's being a popular special occasion restaurant, perhaps consider bringing an interesting Champagne to celebrate with and then order in-house from there.