Much has been written about what defines the perfect BYO. We want the glamour without the price tag, the sophistication without the pretention. We want to wine and dine at a fabulously affordable price and often want to do it with everyone in our phonebook. It's a fine balance. Here then are our five BYO picks for Wellington. They range from the hedonistic to the intimate, from the classic to the newly appointed. So, grab a bottle of cheap red and saddle up. We're not kidding around.
It's always busy at Red Hill. Book or be prepared to leave with your tail between your feet. Red Hill has some of the best Chinese food in the city, especially if your tastes lean towards the fiery. This, in itself, should be enough. However, from 9pm the restaurant transforms, butterfly-like, into a karaoke bar. This goes on above around the customers, some of whom have clearly not read the fine print at the bottom of the menu. Timing is everything at Red Hill. The trick is to be at the middle of your second bottle when the jams begin to pump to let the flow from dinner to party be a smooth transition. Do it right and it will make your night.
If you're going for elegance on a budget, look no further. Hede is a welcome retreat from the bustle of Courtney Place; an oasis of calm and excellent Japanese food at the very bottom of Cuba Street. It's been an institution for years and shows no signs of slowing down. The first floor view helps of course, and the fact that the menu is made of Japanese classics done right. But most of all, Hede makes you feel grown up, sophisticated, even towards those who are clearly not. The whole thing is done with such ease that you have to stop yourself tipping them whatever you've got in your wallet and remember that you'll need it for the bus home. A class act, through and through.
Joe's doesn't feel like your typical BYO dive. It's bright and new and shiny and has booths with red leather upholstery. They serve up classic American diner food but it's the burgers that are the real star here. They're very, very good. And yes, you can bring in wine by the bottle, even though for a minute it feels as though you're breaking all the rules. Perhaps it's the novelty of combining cheap wine and gourmet burgers but when you look around Joe's Garage, there are a whole lot of smiling faces. Two thumbs up.
Rasa keeps in intimate. Think less birthday blowout and more first date with your longtime crush. The food, a combination of Malaysian and Southern Indian, is wickedly good and the atmosphere is as relaxed and welcoming and they come. It's the perfect place to share an evening over a bottle of wine with someone special; a first date at Rasa is a surefire way to guarantee a second.
For those who want the best Indian in Wellington, you're going to have to head north. Maharajas restaurant in Petone does curry like nowhere else. The place has been going strong for twenty years and has a legendary cult following amoung its customers. Maharajas is the perfect place for a serious curry tuck-in, especially with a few bottles of wine to balance out the spice. More is always merrier here. It's easy to see why.