Belles Hot Chicken- Haymarket

Hot chicken so good, good enough to rival Nashville’s best?

That was the question which occupied my mind for months and months, as we had travelled to Nashville in October and had tried Hot chicken at the home of Hot chicken, but how well is Belles in comparison?

It was surprisingly difficult to find a free lunch-time to get on down to Steam Mill Lane to try their chicken (our first attempt was on a Sunday in between Christmas and New Year’s and the majority of stores down Steam Mill Lane were closed); so we were very pleased to see on this Sunday everything was open and bustling for Steam Mill Lane standards.

As soon as we entered their doors, we were greeted by their super friendly staff and were told that we could sit anywhere as it’s a real relaxed restaurant. And shortly after settling down, our service guy was back laying out our table water and asking us if we’d been to Belles before. We had, once before but that was with a big group of friends who had ordered for the table, so we readily accepted his assistance.

The pre-amble was as follows:

Chicken came as either tenders, drumsticks, or wings (all served with a side of your choice). And you elect your level of heat from mild (Southern) to the fifth and hottest level (Really F**king Hot). There was a Spicy chicken sandwich which was served with a side, and on weekends only the chicken and waffles was on offer.  We thanked him and took some time deliberating over our options, and ended up ordering the Spicy chicken sandwich for me (electing the ‘Hot’ heat level which is the 3rd level of heat) and a baked yam salad as my accompanying side ($18). For my wife, she elected the Chicken and Waffles (chicken tenders, also at the Hot heat level) – $20. **Note: They also have Veg and fish options for those who want an alternative to the bird.

When we made our orders we expected a bit of a wait, as arriving before us was a group of 5, and after we sat down a family of four and another couple arrived. But we didn’t mind, the store was funky so there were things to keep you visually occupied, while they played a cool rap playlist (old school tracks from Ice-T and other rappers from the 90s) which kept me bopping in my seat.

But sooner than expected, our meals arrived and the answer to a table discussion we were having was known: “Does the chicken and waffles really come with as many pieces of chicken as specified on the menu?” As on the menu when listing out the chicken cuts on offer, it also specified how many pieces you’ll get for the price. If you elect the tenders you’ll get 4 pieces; if drumsticks you’ll get 3; and if chicken wings then you’ll get 4 pieces. But on the menu for the Chicken and waffles combo, it just mentioned the cut of chicken but not how many. The sceptic in me assumed that you’ll only get 2 pieces, 3 max. And my wife was confident that she’ll get as many as they had specified on the menu for the chicken and sides combo. And yep, she was right, the tray of chicken and waffles were piled high, 4 large chicken tenders and a pile of waffles (kindly cut into quarters for you) with a tub of maple syrup. Yum!

For me, a sandwich could mean anything: an open sandwich, two slices of bread from a loaf, or a burger stack. The Belles’ sandwich was a Brioche burger bun (which wasn’t the largest of portions); admittedly at first I felt like I had the bum deal. As my wife had heaped food on her tray, while I essentially had a chicken burger and a tub of yams (the tub of baked yam salad was a pretty large dish though).

But my burger….sorry….sandwich was real good! The Hot chicken was one thick piece of chicken breast fillet, super tender and the batter it was fried in was super crispy! And the heat level was just at the perfect level for me, enough of a chilli hit without being overpowering. There is something unique about a Southern style spicy fried chicken which Belles completely owned, so I demolished my sandwich quick smart (vaguely registering shredded lettuce, a mayo sauce and a melty cheese in the sandwich). While after devouring my sandwich I had the baked yam salad, which was tasty, large portioned for what you’d usually expect from an accompanying side, and from my meal alone I was filled and satisfied. **Note: Sides purchased on its own were $6.

But the brilliant thing with eating with your wife who is of smaller stature than you, is that if she was fortunate enough to order the larger portioned dish….. Um, eventually she’ll start to get full and start to pass parts of her dish to you. Haaha. So I had chunks of her Chicken tenders (and the chicken tender were different from the chicken fillet which I had in my sandwich, it was less crunchy, so it wasn’t like just shoving a tender in-between bread buns and calling it a sandwich, but they were entirely different beasts). And I had at least a quarter of her waffles, which were super thick and fluffy and real moreish with the Maple syrup. And when we were both done, we were both stuffed!

So now that we have tried Hot chicken in Nashville, the home of Hot chicken and now we’ve tried Australia’s offering of Hot chicken (which was learnt from years working in Tennessee), is it comparable? Worse than? Better than? I think it’s definitely comparable. So if you have Hot chicken on a bucket list to try, but if you never manage to travel to Nashville although you’ve had Belles’ Hot chicken, I’d safely say you can check that item off your list! As Belle’s is honestly that good! But Nashville was just a little bit different. What I had in Nashville was this tray: my shoe string fries were just dumped everywhere, half hanging out of the tray, half under my chicken etc.; the cut of chicken was a Maryland (drumstick +thigh) and it just sat on top of a piece of white bread which was purely there to absorb up all the chilli oils from your greasy bird; and the chicken wasn’t deep fried, but roasted and completely covered in oil and Hot powder. I literally gave up trying to use knife and fork as  cutting on-top of a piece of  bread and bed of chips wasn’t easy, so I just ended up using my fingers to tear the chicken apart  and it was messy, it wasn’t glamourous, but it was tasty! So in that respects, Belles and Nashville were different, but by far Belles was more civilised.

Meanwhile my wife had a memorable Chicken and Waffle dish in Chicago (at Michael Jordan’s restaurant), and was happy to re-live that experience at Belles. Although it wasn’t as good as her American experience, the Steam Mill Lane experience was still good in its own right.

So end verdict, 4.5 from 5 stars! (3 from 3 for food; 0.5 from 0.5 for service as the service staff were really a step above; 0.5 from 0.5 for atmosphere as the music was good and everyone sounded like they were having a good time; and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money, yeah paying $20 pp might be a little steep for some for casual lunch, but you do get a lot of food for your money).

We highly recommend Belles Hot chicken, it’s as good as what you can get in Nashville, and we’ll definitely be back when we have those mad cravings for fried chicken and waffles! Not to mention they have many sides and sliders to choose from; and a great organic wine list, so there are many different things which you can get stuck into in repeat visits.

Belles Hot Chicken- Sunday 6 January (4.5 stars)

https://belleshotchicken.com/

 PH: (02) 8355 7891

7 Steam Mill Lane, Haymarket NSW

Sun-Tues 11.30am – 3pm

Wed-Thurs 11.30am – 9pm

Fri 11.30am – 10.30pm

Sat 11.30am – 9pm

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