Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
It’s official – our wait for Belles Hot Chicken is over. The Southern fried chicken sensation from Melbourne appeared in Sydney months ago, but the Happy Gwailo and I were too slow to make it to their pop up in Barangaroo. By the time we finally went, we spent a fruitless 15 minutes hunting for the restaurant because Google Maps insisted it was there, yet the pop up had closed and the permanent abode hadn’t opened.
Then we braved the crowds and went to the Tramsheds on opening day because we were promised that Belles Hot Chicken would be there. Foiled again. This time, we could see the signage, but the shop was still closed for final fit outs. That was disappointing, but I did like what they’ve done with the Tramsheds. It’s now a beautiful, bright and airy space, and even has gigantic containers with live trees inside the building.
We finally got lucky on our third try. This time, we were in the neighbourhood doing some casual house hunting. The Tramsheds just happened to be around the corner, so we thought we would try our luck again. To our surprise, this time it was actually ready for business – just not quite open yet. We were too early by half an hour.
We decided to have an appetiser first and settled on Hopper Kade’s (kar-day) Meat Hopper. So what exactly is a hopper? I’d come across string hoppers in Sri Lanka before, but never just a plain hopper. Turns out, they are similar to a thosai, India’s answer to the pancake, but made with fermented rice flour. It’s slightly sour (this must appeal to Australians, given our craziness for sourdough), and shaped like a bowl – the perfect vessel!
Our meat hopper comes with an egg and is topped with a melt-in-your-mouth beef curry. It’s accompanied by a salad, a tomato pickle and my favourite, some coconut sambal. It tastes good, and there’s a novelty factor, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.
By the time we finish, Belles is finally open. I settle for the drumsticks with a side of Old Bay fries ($17). I’m unsure about the spice level – is it going to be Do Dee Pai Dang-hot, where a level 2 already burns my mouth and a level 3 has me crying? Or is it going to be like Nando’s Extra Hot Peri Peri, which doesn’t move the dial for me at all?
The box opens to reveal a pile of drumsticks liberally dusted with red powder. Moment of truth. I take a bite, and somehow, the red stuff is instantly smeared all over my face. But I don’t care because it’s delicious. The skin is crispy and so flavourful from the spices (and no, it wasn’t too spicy. In fact, the Happy Gwailo wanted to up the spice level a notch), and the chicken is incredibly juicy. The fries were so-so, but I’m guessing we didn’t do it any favours by letting them steam in the box for 10 minutes while we went and found a spot on the grass outside.
So was it worth all the faffing around and the long wait? Definitely. Was it my favourite fried chicken ever? Not quite. That honour still belongs to Hot Star. But it’s still pretty fantastic chicken, and next time, I’ll try their mac and cheese too.
1 Dalgal Way
Forest Lodge, NSW 2037
Open daily 7am – late
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