Address: Inside Good God Small Club, 53-55 Liverpool Street, Sydney
Opening hours: Wednesday – Friday 5pm – 10pm, Saturdays 6pm – 10pm
After seeing a multitude of social media posts about the new eatery installed at Good God Small Club known as Belly Bao, my friends and I were eager to check it out and see if it lived up to expectations. Belly Bao specialises in gua bao buns- the current food trend that is not going away anytime soon. The small white buns resembling open clams are served at restaurants such as Momofuku Seiobo, Ippudo, Old Town Hong Kong, Cho Cho San, and now at Good God Small Club. Belly Bao has been serving gua baos since 2013 at Paddington Markets and is now permanently at Good God Small Club as of January 2015.
We came here as a group of 5 on a Wednesday evening, just a little after 6pm. Descending into the bar, we were confronted with the unexpected reality of being unable to find a table. Every table was taken up by diners who were not yet eating. Faced with a long wait, J and I stood at different parts of Good God, staking out tables and waiting for people to leave.
We were lucky to snag a booth after a group of people left, and claimed it immediately as they left. The seats were still warm as we sat down on them. Belly Bao operates on a pay-first basis. After one of the girls went to order for everyone at the counter, we were told that it would be an hour wait for the 15 baos that we wanted. After a moment of disbelief, we decided to wait anyway, as A had her heart set on trying the gua bao buns that night. None of us for a moment believed that it would actually be an hour’s wait, but we did in fact end up waiting an hour.
Crackling Roast Pork Belly was one of my favourite gua bao buns. With crisp pieces of pork belly, aromatic coriander, pickled radish and kewpie mayo, it was a definite crowd pleaser.
The Panko Crumbed Chicken Breast baos were my personal favourite, with crisp, crumbed chicken breast, topped with lettuce, pickled radish, coriander and chili aioli on a soft, white bun. The gua bao bun was as soft as a pillow, contrasting with the crispy exterior of the chicken. The chili aioli and coriander added a spicy and aromatic hit and excited the taste buds. This was quite spicy so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who can’t eat chili. E had a hard time eating these buns, and stopped after one.
My least favourite of the buns was Slow Braised Pork Belly, although my friends liked this one a lot. I disliked it because the sauce made the bun soggy, although the meat was tender and flavoursome.
Despite eating our fill of savoury baos, we still had room for dessert and promptly ordered at the bar. We had been waiting for about 20 minutes for our dessert baos when S decided to check with one of the servers for an update about our order. It turned out the order hadn’t gone through and they hadn’t started making it, so we had to wait a little longer.
The dessert baos were not to our liking. Strawbelly Bao, a concoction of creamy vanilla ice cream, slices of strawberry and drizzles of sweet condensed milk on a deep-fried golden bun, sprinkled with caster sugar, was pleasant tasting, but the bun was over-cooked and difficult to divide with our cutlery.
Baonana Split had the same golden deep-fried bun, with slices of banana, vanilla ice cream, lashings of chocolate sauce and nuts. It had the same problem with the bun being hard.
Although aesthetically pleasing, and not having anything wrong with them flavour-wise, the dessert buns were left unfinished because of the too-hard exterior. My friends and I were also a little fed up with the waiting times for our food that night, although teething problems should be expected with new businesses, an hour wait is a bit too long.
Admittedly, I was never a fan of gua bao buns before visiting Belly Bao. The only reason I ate here that night was because a few friends had their hearts set on devouring the little white buns, but in hindsight, I was happy with our meal, despite a few buns being hit and miss. Belly Bao has converted me to being a lover of gua baos, and I’ll be coming back sooner, rather than later.