Whether you’ve dusted off a bottle from your humidity-controlled cellar or have more budget concerns than the federal treasurer, these BYO restaurants will fit your bill nicely.
￼Nunam isn’t your garden-variety Thai restaurant. There’s the switched-on service; the refined, understated look of the room; the pleasingly pun-free name. Most notable of all is Kevin Pham’s meticulous cooking, which is a masterclass on how to use sweet, sour, salty and hot to win friends and influence diners. From the zing of betel-leaf-wrapped trout parcels to the richness of a deeply aromatic beef shin and pumpkin curry, the hit rate is high across the carte. Even renditions of suburban takeaway staples – red duck curry, say, or that distinctly Siamese trifecta of sticky rice, coconut cream and fruit – are elevated from humdrum to something special.
223 Bulwer Street, Northbridge
Open weekends for breakfast and lunch, Monday-Saturday for dinner. BYO ($10 per bottle)
When Marumo releases online bookings at the start of each month, the competition for tables is swift and fierce. It’s not hard to see why. As far as value for money
is concerned, this tiny bento box of a restaurant is in a league of its own (unless, of course, there’s another chef in Perth offering seven courses of precise Japanese fare for the bargain price of $60). It’s compelling stuff, whether you’re revelling in the elegance of reverently handled sashimi or falling hard for the sweet-and-savoury joys of tender duck paired with a tile of silken omelette.
While packing a crisp and delicate white is a safe bet wine-wise, tracking down a bottle (or two) of saké seems pretty much mandatory.
22/145 Stirling Highway, Nedlands; 0431 040 899
Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner. BYO ($2.50 per person)
New South Wales
If ever an establishment embodied the perfect Australian neighbourhood restaurant, Sean’s would be it. There’s a glimpse of that famous Bondi ocean; warm, welcoming service; and food that not only emphasises the seasons but also creates a comfortable hum of happy hearts. The fine balance of no-fuss yet super-professional delivery, along with an ever-changing menu, is owner Sean Moran’s trademark. On this visit there’s barramundi cooked on the bone, rested over sweet baby leeks and served with preserved lemon. Succulent roast chicken begs to mop up a parsnip purée, while a pear and passionfruit trifle gives rise to Christmas memories.
270 Campbell Parade, North Bondi; (02) 9365 4924
Open Saturday-Sunday for lunch, Wednesday-Saturday for dinner. Licensed and BYO ($25 per bottle)
Enmore may be rockin’ in neon lights but it’s the suburb’s secrets that are worth seeking. Osteria di Russo & Russo presents one of its best illusions. From the outside, the frilly curtains and inset windows suggest a certain ’70s trattoria charm but inside, guests are privy to a superbly innovative Italian restaurant. This seductively dark room thrives on turntable tunes and a touch of tongue-in-cheek. Chef Jason Saxby’s food embraces classic Italian dishes but lateral thinking, deft touch and a sense of whimsy gives them new life. House-made goat’s milk ricotta is accentuated by warm tomato and tomato powder, while fregola cooked in squid ink hides sweet Moreton Bay bug.
158 Enmore Road, Enmore; (02) 8068 5202
Open Tuesday-Sunday for dinner. Licensed and BYO ($15 per bottle)
Let’s face it: there is pizza and then there is the real deal. As fast-and-furious food providers get funky with their toppings, the team at Rosso Pomodoro proves simplicity is the key to Italy’s finest contribution to casual eating. The less-is-more ethos is backed by a Bolognian dough recipe passed down through the generations. It’s rested for 72 hours, cooked on stone and garnished with minimalism in mind. Bring a bottle, pull up a pew and enjoy Sydney’s best flavour wheels. Think tomato, hot salami and capsicum or four cheeses with rocket and walnuts. Sure, there are rules: no ham and pineapple, no half/half. Perhaps, on this occasion, rules were not meant to be broken.
91/24 Buchanan Street, Balmain; (02) 9555 5924
Open Tuesday-Sunday for dinner. BYO (no corkage)
Serious wine lovers flock to France-Soir, opened by noted oenophile Jean-Paul Prunetti an astonishing three decades ago and buzzing ever since. South Yarra by the Seine, the narrow shopfront is a beguiling paean to la belle France. The smoky mirrors are scrawled with the nightly specials, the waiters come armed with the thickest of accents and the menu is the kind of document that could be preserved in aspic as Brasserie 101: escargot in garlic butter, marinated salmon, duck confit and the all-important steak frites. With a 40-page wine list so hefty you’ll feel like a drink after just lifting the thing, BYO is a blessing for the indecisive.
11 Toorak Road, South Yarra; (03) 9866 8569
Open seven days for lunch and dinner. Licensed and BYO ($14.50 per bottle) – not available Saturdays, “special” days or for groups of more than six.
When the craze for authentic pizza swept Melbourne in the mid-noughties, Ladro’s was at the forefront. Consistency is its calling card but the main game is wood-fired pizza with just the right amount of puff and char, topped with simple artistry (like the J Lo: tomato, basil, buffalo mozzarella, speck and a va-va-voom measure of chilli). The rest of the menu, with dishes including gnocchi in rich lamb ragù and calamari fritti, is also worth a look. While the BYO policy is welcome, the wine list is no slouch: the 80/20 Rosso, a sangiovese-syrah house blend, is backed by a punchy (and affordable) 30-plus selection. If beer is more to your taste, check out sister restaurant Ladro Tap across town (162 Greville Street, Prahran).
224 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy; (03) 9415 7575
Open weekends for breakfast and lunch, seven days for dinner. Licensed and BYO ($15 per bottle)
Ocha’s a sleek beast, all twinkly lights, gossamer curtains and cool neutral tones acting as a stage set for the modern Japanese of co-owner/chef Yasu Yoshida. A cult favourite that graduated to these larger digs some five years ago, Ocha has lost nothing in the translation; you’ll still find great canapés such as salmon with wasabi mayo on a potato crisp and fried prawn balls with green-tea salt. While there are Japanese stalwarts to be found – agedashi tofu, sushi and sashimi, beef tataki with a citrus hit of ponzu – it’s a restaurant more playful than purist, where regulars arrive with bottles in tow or delve into the selection of eight sakés and a wine list that focuses on Victoria but spans the globe.
3 Church Street, Hawthorn; (03) 9853 6002
Open Tuesday-Friday for lunch, Tuesday-Saturday for dinner. Licensed and BYO ($7.50 per person, wine only)
Parwana serves a line-up of authentic Kabuli-style dishes that changes every two days. Expect rustic regional favourites such as mantu (steamed dumplings filled with carrot and sautéed onion), murgh korma (a chicken curry with Afghan spices) and chopaan (pan-fried lamb with garlic, chilli and coriander). The rice dishes – the palaws – are at the centre of the show, fragrant with cardamom and laced with pistachio. There’s no wine list and the decision not to sell alcohol in the restaurant has led to a happy outcome. Corkage from BYO is donated to charity, in the form of food cooked to help The Salvation Army feed the homeless: a win-win.
124b Henley Beach Road, Torrensville; (08) 8443 9001
Open Tuesday-Sunday for dinner. BYO ($10 per bottle)
The site of fine diner The Manse has undergone a startling transformation to become ultra-hip Italian restaurant Ruby Red Flamingo. Outside, the 133-year-old building – originally a Baptist minster’s residence – remains unchanged but inside there’s a mixed bag of retro seating, bare tables, colourful walls, bold blackboard menus and share dishes. Ruby Red is heart-and-soul Italian and chef Enzo Verdino’s maccheroni eggplant with smoked scamorza has been an instant hit, as has his gnudi (spinach and ricotta dumplings) and several other classic dishes. At full throttle the place is noisy, energetic and a little chaotic. There’s a small wine list that focuses on Italian wine styles but BYO is welcome.
142 Tynte Street, North Adelaide; (08) 8267 5769
Open Wednesday-Friday for lunch, Wednesday-Saturday for dinner. Licensed and BYO ($14 per bottle)
Don’t be fooled by the AstroTurf and umbrellas out front; the food here is a far cry from standard café fare. The pepper-crusted eye fillet with horseradish cream and charred root vegetables is the most imaginative, generous version of steak in these parts. Can’t decide whether to eat cow, pig, fish, sheep or bird? Get on board the “ark” if you dare – a choice of three animals and three sides to share. But beware of overdoing it. It’d be a shame not to try the fancy “s’mores” with mint snow and rosemary ganache or the apple tarte tatin with cinnamon doughnuts, butterscotch, macadamia crumble and toffee apple.
14 Austin Street, Newstead; (07) 3257 0227
Open weekends for breakfast, Wednesday-Saturday for dinner. Licensed and BYO ($10 per bottle)
85 Miskin St￼
Last year, Brent Farrell refurbished and renamed his restaurant, then Brent’s – The Dining Experience. This more casual incarnation continues to attract the crowds, largely due to Farrell’s knack for creativity and precision. Pink spheres of lamb loin sit beside rich, glazed lamb’s belly with tiny baked heirloom carrots. Smoked goat’s cheese and crunchy hazelnut dukkah complete the delicious picture. Then there are his innovative desserts – it isn’t every day you find Manjimup truffles whipped into ice-cream and served with honey panna cotta. Stunning.
85 Miskin Street, Toowong; (07) 3371 4558
Open weekends for breakfast, Wednesday-Saturday for lunch, Tuesday-Saturday for dinner. Licensed and BYO ($15 per bottle, free on Tuesday nights)
Australian Capital Territory
Simplicity rules at this busy, burgundy-walled pizzeria. Wood-fired pizzas come to the table served in boxes and there’s no cutlery in sight. If you buy a local riesling or shiraz from the bottle shop next door, you’ll need to pour it yourself into the plastic cups provided. It’s typical of the growing trend of casual yet authentic eating in Canberra and it won’t burn a hole in your wallet. In the warmer months, families and hipsters kick back at tables outside. Indoors is a cosy squeeze but the few tables available enjoy delicious aromas of triple-proven dough baking beneath mushrooms, bocconcini and eggplant.
23 Lonsdale Street, Braddon; (02) 6257 7508
Open Tuesday-Sunday for dinner. BYO (no corkage)
Griffith Vietnamese restaurant￼
This bustling Vietnamese eatery is always packed with locals looking for a quick, cheap meal and is a long-time hit with hungry politicians. The walls are covered in sheets of A4 paper sporting signed commendations from pollies past and present. Even former speaker Bronwyn Bishop has left her mark of approval (and she’s not one to forgo quality to save on expense). The décor is basic but service is topnotch. Put aside the menu and allow the owner, Mr Tan, to take care of your order. He’s known for his “sexy” fried squid laced with fiery chilli and theatrical hot plates laden with sizzling lamb, chicken or seafood. Sometimes there’s even complimentary ice-cream to finish the show.
6 Barker Street, Griffith; (02) 6295 6505
Open Monday-Friday for lunch, seven days for dinner. BYO ($1 per person)
The tender tandoori chicken tikka alone makes Memories of India worth the foray into suburban Millner. Then there’s the dal tadka with spinach, and the chewy but flavoursome goat curry in a rich sauce that makes another serve of naan a no-brainer. Yes, the tabletops are Laminex and the crockery looks like it’s from a two-dollar shop but consider this: a few months after it opened, demand was such that the owners expanded into the shop next door and even at twice the size, the restaurant is often full. Service, whether eat in or takeaway, is up there with Darwin’s quickest. A bottle shop in the nearby supermarket will see you sorted if you forget to bring along a drink – or if you need a top-up as you linger over another round of food.
5/2 Sabine Road, Millner; (08) 8948 0800
Open seven days for dinner, Tuesday-Sunday for lunch. BYO ($2 per person)
This local favourite, on Cygnet’s main drag in the Huon Valley, has a seasonal lunchtime menu. The dishes may sound simple – a daily pizza, soup, tart and salad – but today’s soup is local organic greens, baby peas, cream and Pernod, while the tart is roasted leek, fennel, almond and Grandvewe ricotta. The “salad plate” features Woodbridge smoked trout, locally made organic pork pie, pickles, edible flowers, lovingly picked greens and a house-made organic baguette. The coffee is excellent, as is the Lotus Love chai, and there’s a fabulous range of baked goodies, from vanilla bean baked cheesecake to organic fruit frangipane tart.
10 Mary Street, Cygnet; (03) 6295 1996
Open Friday-Monday for breakfast and lunch. BYO ($2 per person)
In a quiet Hobart street just north of the city you’ll find Rin, a casual Japanese restaurant. Chef Yuki Sato – who was trained in classic French techniques in Tokyo and has lived in Hobart for eight years – now focuses on traditional Japanese. Alongside standards such as tempura and pork gyoza is chirashi sushi (literally “scattered sushi”, a sushi salad) and a special of trout misoyaki – grilled miso-marinated trout with stir-fried mushrooms and broccoli. You can BYO or enjoy the umeshu (plum wine), saké, Japanese beer and well-selected Tasmanian wines. ￼
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167 Harrington Street, Hobart; 0427 634 574
Open Tuesday-Friday for lunch, Tuesday-Saturday for dinner. Licensed and BYO ($2 per person)