Some like it hotter: Belles Hot Chicken

Belle's Hot Chicken Fitzroy Eat My Words

Since stepping away from fine-diner Loam, on the Bellarine Peninsula, Aaron Turner has been on a something of a pilgrimage. He’s just returned from Nashville, accompanied by a chest-grazing beard (no hipster haunt would be complete without one), buddy and business partner Morgan McGlone, and the secrets to Southern-style fried chicken. The duo have revamped Belle’s Diner on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, into Belles Hot Chicken, turning out baskets of fried bird with incendiary sauces.

The premise is simple: choose your cut of chicken (wings, tenders or dark meat, essentially a drumstick and hefty thigh cutlet, all $14), your level of heat from mild to ‘really f*cking hot’, and one side, from a selection that includes coleslaw, mac and cheese, fries, potato salad, beans and mixed pickles (additional sides are $5 each).

A word to the wise, your chicken will already come with a trio of crunchy dill pickles, so opt for one of the heartier sides instead. You can also buy a little tub of sauce for $2 a pop, and for those who don’t do bird, there’s fried fish or mushrooms up for grabs.

Belles Hot Chicken food

I’m a committed heat-seeker, so I went for the tenders served ‘really hot’ with mac and cheese, while Simon chose the ‘mild’ dark meat and a ‘medium’ wing, plus coleslaw and the gently spiced Mississippi Comeback sauce.

Belle's Hot Chicken menu | Eat My WordsIt’s all served in those black plastic baskets last seen in RSL clubs circa 1987. The bird is perched on a slice of supermarket white bread to sop up the juices, along with finger-slim wedges of pickle, and your chosen side in a white paper cup. It’s a no-fuss affair, but it works in the old-school diner setting of curvaceous wooden booths and bar stools.

The chicken’s first-rate – juicy meat in a crunchy, nicely burnished coating. But when I started digging in, I really wanted that cayenne-based ‘really hot’ sauce to be hotter. So much so that I was scraping it off my spongey slab of bread to spread over the chicken. I think our choice of sides may have tempered the heat, too, with the creamy coleslaw and the mild, stretchy mac cheese counteracting the burn.

By the end of the meal, however, I was tapping into a serious capsaicin buzz, and that tingle lasted long after lunch had ended.

Belle's Hot Chicken wine listI’ll be back to try the ‘really f*cking hot’ sauce, because yes I am a masochist. But I also want to give the wine list a nudge. This razor-sharp selection has a keen focus on natural wines, including Patrick Sullivan’s sublime Britannia Creek orange wine, which I first sampled at Attica, plus five mighty magnums for drinking en masse.

If boundary-pushing wines seem like a bit of a disconnect for your fried chicken luncheon, never fear: there are tinnies of PBR beer and a whole swag of spirits for your swilling pleasure.

Belles Hot Chicken
150-156 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
@belleshotchicken

For more cheap eats around town, check out my guide to Melbourne’s best burgers, or get your Korean food fix at Kong.

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Sarah Gamboni is an Australian food, drinks and travel writer. Sarah writes for leading lifestyle magazines and websites, and produces content for a range of clients spanning tourism bodies, beauty products, food and fashion. She is currently based in Dubai with her husband, Simon, and daughter, Francesca.

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