Best BYO restaurants in Sydney

Charley May
By Charley May
about 3 years ago
4 min read

As a teenager, money burnt a hole in my pocket. If there was something shiny that caught my eye, I’d be only too happy to splash (someone else’s) cash. But it’s amazing what living out of home and paying your own bills does for thriftiness. 

These days, I’m much better at balancing the books. However, my penchant for good food and wine can be an expensive habit, so I’m always keen to save where I can. And in a place as pricey as Sydney, BYO is a smart move. So I caught up with Karel, resident mofo and former Sydneysider, to get the score on living it up on a shoestring. 

1.Rosso Pomodoro: 20-24 Buchanan St, Balmain, 2041

“This place is vying for pole position as my all time fave BYO in Sydney. Not only are their pizzas the most authentic this side of Naples, but they don’t charge corkage - bellissimo! I just love the vibe in here, it’s always rammed with families, afterworkers and tight-arses on first dates. I must of eaten here 50 times or more because those crispy, thin bases, and super-fresh, genuine Italian flavours are hard to pass by. Pack a prosecco, a good sangiovese and let the good times roll.”

2. Spice I am: 237 Darling St, Balmain, 2041.

“This is full spice, real deal Thai food. These guys blend the best local produce with some exotic import ingredients to serve up fresh and feisty Thai cuisine. They’re not scared of chilli here, so I’d recommend putting out the flames with a couple of bottles of Frankland Estate Rocky Gully rizza or Waimea Estate gewürz. The waitstaff know the menu inside out, so don’t be afraid to ask them for recommendations, cause they’ve always got great specials. You may have to wait to get a table, but it’s totally worth it. And with a $5 corkage fee, you can afford to make up for lost time.”

3. Sean’s Panaroma: 270 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach NSW 2026

“A stone’s throw from Bondi Beach, this smart neighbourhood eatery is where the well-heeled come when they can’t be bothered cooking. With just 45 seats, this intimate diner feels like hanging out in your best friend’s front room - although the food is much better (unless you’re besties with a top notch chef, of course). With much of the produce coming from their own farm, these guys live and breath local, seasonal food. The menu is focused and ever-changing, and the service is welcoming - it’s a winning formula that’s made them a Sydney institution for good reason. Sure, the $25 corkage fee is a bit steep, but this place is worth splashing out for. So bring a magnum of Champagne because the ocean views are worth celebrating.”

4. Glebe Point Diner: 407 Glebe Point Road, Glebe 2037.

“This is one of my favourite spots for long lunches/afternoon hangs. Kate (Karel’s wife) and I used to love sitting out on their verandah and sinking back into the most comfortable outdoor chairs I’ve sat on in Sydney. Set on a leafy Glebe street, this place oozes chilled vibes and a contemporary mod Aus, European influenced menu. Their sharing menu is a top way to get tastes of the different treats on offer. The diner is BYO ($15 corkage fee) from Monday to Thursday, so take a nice, rich chardy to pair with their pumpkin, orange, mascarpone and sage risotto, before the weekend crew crash the joint.” 

5. Golden Century: 393-399 Sussex St, Sydney, 2000.

“This place is hectic and the scene of some of my most boozy bashes. I once ate here three times in one day - no joke - it’s that good. The space is huge, like the size of a live music venue, with capacity to seat hundreds hungry Chinese seafood fans. Open from 12 midday ‘til 4am, this place rocks around the clock. I have hazy memories of some pretty epic sessions that involved out of control White Burgundy and chilli mud crabs. While you can bring your own wine (at a BYO rate of $8 per drinker), Golden Century boasts a massive cellar stocked with blue-chip French wines. With both ends of the spectrum covered, tables are filled with everything from bargain hunters to big dogs. Regardless of where you sit, take a good crew and you’re guaranteed to have a great time.”