Best Auckland BYO restaurants where the food is good too

by Metro / 14 November, 2018
bbq cafe

BBQ Duck Cafe. Photo/Rebekah Robinson.

Heading to a BYO usually involves $10 bottles of just-drinkable wine and onion-heavy stirfry. Here are the best restaurants in Auckland where you can BYO wine and eat well too, collated from the latest Metro Top 50 Cheap Eats and Top 50 under $50 lists. 

Asian Ruby

Vietnamese
Vegan-friendly

Tucked away down some steps from street level, Asian Ruby makes an impact once you get inside. Foreigner’s greatest hits blast from the stereo, there’s a chrome-coloured gas heater in the middle of the dining room, and decorative flourishes run from wicker baskets to fancy lampshades. More to the point, they do a memorable bowl of pho. It’s cooked for some 12 hours; you can smell the star anise as the waiter approaches your table, then the cinnamon as the bowl is presented. It’s a rich, dark broth, full of collagen from the beef bones, with a wispy pile of herbs stirred through plus rice noodles for slurping. 311 Parnell Rd, Parnell

BBQ Duck Cafe 

A Metro Top 50 Cheap Eat
Cantonese

A lively dining room popular with students, BBQ Duck is just over the road from the Aotea Centre and Town Hall, making it a particularly convenient stop before or after a show. From the barbecued meats hanging on hooks — amber-rimmed pork or properly crispy duck — to noodle soups, congee and hotpots, you can easily over-order here. Service verges on non-existent, which somehow adds to the character of the place. The waiters’ desire to turn tables briskly makes deciding what to order from the vast menu much simpler, because you’ll have only minutes to do so. Be sure to include a whole or half roast duck in the mix, served in traditional style with tissue-thin pancakes, cucumber, spring onion and sweet-savoury hoisin. 350 Queen St, central city (also at 115C Queen St) 

Bi Won Korean

A Metro Top 50 Cheap Eat
Korean

Having an ex-butcher — co-owner Jong-In Yang — on the kitchen team certainly helps with acquiring the best cuts of meat for this Korean barbecue joint. The friendly staff will help you switch from using a grill to using a hot-plate over the charcoal at your table, depending on what you’re cooking. Dipping condiments such as coarsely ground salt in sesame oil complement the meat perfectly. The kimchi also deserves a special mention — Yang’s wife and co-owner, Jung Kim, makes multiple varieties herself. If you’re a fan, ask her and she’ll bring out extra samples to try. 29 Link Drive, Wairau Valley

Faro Korean BBQ

Korean Barbecue

You cook your own food at Faro, on a little charcoal barbecue that they bring to the table. It’s fun, especially after a bottle or two of soju —  Korea’s national spirit —  but not something we’re quite used to in New Zealand just yet. Thankfully, there’s a large team of staff circling the floor, ready to lend a hand to hapless newbies. First, choose your meats — minimum order two portions; the marinated ggot sal (boneless beef rib) and galbi (short rib) are good places to start. Then add the table-set special of soup, salad and banchan (Korean sides) and you’ll have quite the feast. You cook the meat whole and then cut it with scissors into small bits to make saam — lettuce wraps with fermented soybean paste that you eat in one mouthful. Some of the banchan are a bit odd — supermarket-style pasta salad being just one example — but most are good, and staff will refill them if you ask so you can make the most of the ones you’re enjoying. 5 Lorne St, central city (also at 49 Nuffield St, Newmarket) 

Happy Cafe

Cantonese

We may have found the benchmark for barbecue porkwon ton noodle soup. Happy’s features a broth spiked with plenty of white pepper, extra-thin egg noodles, soft strips of cabbage, and fatwon tons stuffed with both pork mince and juicy prawns and, the masterstroke, honeyed barbecue pork. The rest of the Cantonese-style menu is very good, too — if a little unfriendly to vegetarians — keeping local workers well fed with barbecued and roasted meats on rice, warming casseroles and plenty of change from a twenty. 697 Manukau Rd, Royal Oak

Hong Kong Kitchen

A Metro Top 50 Cheap Eat
Cantonese

All the locals know and love this Glen Innes gem, which Colin and Joanna Ye opened 18 years ago, and word of its popularity is now widespread. The couple barbecue and roast pork, chicken and duck to perfection and we highly recommend having one or more of these succulent meats in a noodle soup, with a ginger and spring onion topping. Their round beans with pork mince, prawn scrambled egg (served on rice), braised eggplant with salted fish, and the five-spice squid also come highly recommended — as does their Peking duck with pancakes. 290 Apirana Ave, Glen Innes

Jolin

Xiao long bao at Jolin Shanghai. Photo/William Chen.

Jolin Shanghai

A Metro Top 50 Cheap Eat
Shanghainese
Vegan-friendly and especially good for vegetarians

A slurp of Lei “Kelvin” Zhang’s celebrated xiao long bao (soupy dumplings) will please even the fussiest dumpling connoisseur. And he’ll be happy to suggest add-ons if you want to further explore his Shanghainese menu, which offers dishes that not so long ago were largely unknown to Westerners. These include bamboo shoots and salty pork soup, braised pork chop, eggplant with five toppings in bean curd sauce, and stir-fried rice cake with Chinese spinach. Zhang especially recommends his deep-fried sweet and sour blue cod or the Shanghai sauce duck (served cold). 248 Dominion Rd

Mr Zhou’s Dumplings

A Metro Top 50 Cheap Eat
Northern Chinese
Vegan-friendly and especially good for vegetarians

Mr Zhou’s is still the yardstick for a good dumpling in this city and with more than 20 flavours to choose from, you might have a tough time choosing. We’re keen on the punchy pork and fennel and, for non-meat eaters, vegetarian dumplings with waxy cashew nuts. If you’re tossing up between boiled, steamed or fried, half and half is an option. Throw in a chilli-soaked sliced dried tofu and cucumber salad and a spring onion pancake or two and leave satisfied. The Mt Eden branch is licensed and BYO if you want a beer to wash it all down. 3130 Great North Rd

Pok Pok Thai Street Food

Thai

As soon as you open the door the aromas of heady Southeast Asian spices and fish sauce greet you. Owner/head chef Max Yangkongkaew makes all the spice pastes at Pok Pok by hand; the restaurant is named after the sound the pestle and mortar makes as he pounds. Dishes cover many regional Thai classics — massaman curry, tom yum, papaya salad, green curry — but this isn’t a pick-your-meat-and-heat kind of joint. Service is helpful, so anyone with a chilli aversion is guided smoothly towards something mild. The Issan-style larb of fatty minced pork in hot, sour sauce with plenty of lemongrass, lime leaves and mint is a real treat. 261 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd precinct

Satya

South Indian
Vegan-friendly and especially good for vegetarians

Common in South India, a thali should always represent six tastes — sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy — on a single plate. A small dish (katori) for each is placed around the outside of a larger metal tray and the meal is typically served with rice and/or roti. Satya offers three different thali, but the South Indian version represents incredible value at $16. That gets you the vegetarian curry of the day, two soups — one tamarind-infused, another lentil-based — plus pickle, poppadum and silky cooling yoghurt. Dump the accompanying rice in the centre of the plate and scoop up with curry and pickle before popping into your mouth on a poppadum spoon. 17 Great North Rd, Newton (also at 515 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham, and 57 Mt Eden Rd, Eden Terrace)

Sri Pinang

A Metro Top 50 Cheap Eat
Malaysian
Vegan-friendly and especially good for vegetarians

Found in Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian cooking, sambal is a fiery sauce made by pounding chilli peppers, shrimp paste, spices, sugar and citrus or vinegar. An integral part of nasi lemak — a fragrant Malay rice dish served with accoutrements including sambal — it also forms the base of Sri Pinang’s punchy sambal eggplant-and-okra dish. The fried vegetables are tossed with that pungent sauce and sprinkled with crunchy fried shallots. Happily, owners Angie and Kevin Siew offer a vegetarian-friendly version, but the flavour is all there. 356 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd precinct 

Pho

The pho at Try It Out, Otahuhu.

Thai Street

Thai
Vegan-friendly and especially good for vegetarians

Strangely formal piano music aside, this is a casual place, serving a mix of street food and Thai favourites. In the open prep kitchen at the centre, floral-shirted staff steam rice, cut vegetables and shred papaya for som tam papaya salad. In a second kitchen out back — you can peer in through a mailbox-shaped window — curries simmer and stir fries are tossed in huge hot woks. Create your own banquet from a range of Issan-style grilled meats, salads and sticky rice, or succumb to the heavy, coconut-laden massaman curry, which features meltingly tender beef shin and starchy potatoes. 3/12 Jellicoe St, North Wharf

Tianze Dumpling House

A Metro Top 50 Cheap Eat
Northern Chinese 
Vegan-friendly and especially good for vegetarians

Ignore the all-red frontage of Tianze Dumpling House at your peril. Do you really want to miss out on a range of dumplings that rivals the very best that Dominion Rd offers? Chef/owner Levi Sun, who hails from Dalian, crafts 17 different dumplings, which come boiled, pan-fried or steamed. Our favourite? Pan-fried prawn, pork and chive. But we also love chef Sun’s shredded pork in sweet bean sauce served with 10 mini-pancake wraps, and his Mongolian lamb chops with pancakes. 695 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham

Tom Yum Eden

A Metro Top 50 Cheap Eat
Vegan-friendly and especially good for vegetarians

You can get a very good som tum salad here, made with actual papaya rather than the carrot substitute so commonly employed. Curries are creamy without overshadowing base notes of expertly made spice pastes and aromatics; they’re also generous on the meat and veg, which we like. Vegetables in stir-fried dishes taste like they’ve just kissed the wok, remaining pleasingly crunchy. The star of the show is thick, salty-sweet-hot beef panang curry, rich with coconut and peanuts and served with sticky rice. 257 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden

Try It Out

A Metro Top 50 Cheap Eat
Vietnamese

If you have a hankering for pho, head to Otahuhu. The rare-beef number here is flavourful and nourishing, and there’s hoisin sauce, sriracha and fresh chilli on the table to add as you please. The vermicelli noodle salads — we like the lemongrass chicken — and the fresh summer rolls are also punchy and aromatic. Don’t forget to order a Vietnamese coffee or a coconut milkshake to wash it down. Plenty of parking outside. 79 Atkinson Ave, Otahuhu

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