Why hello there winter. I’m sorry we can’t be friends. Although you are good at something and that is soup. Bless you hot salty bowls of goodness. Both warming and delicious you also make for easy eating, requiring only one utensil and minimal chewing. Folk medicine says you’re medicinal in healing colds and respiratory infections and Jamie Oliver has a soup named penicillin. Well, penicillin tastes yuck (unless it’s a needle in the behind, then it goddamn hurts), so no thank you mamma I wont take my medicine. But I will drop in to Starfish Bakery to dine on delectable, otherworldly soups.
Starfish soup begins with the stock. Made on site from scratch with fresh organic meats and vegetables, herbs and spices. With over 140 different types of soups produced, Starfish chef of 14 years Ella Stribley reckons they can hardly keep up with demand. “Soup’s pretty much all I cook five days a week.”
I pick an outdoor table (puffer jacket, tick) and choose the Nona Nina Zuppa del Chicken; its tantalizing ancestry had me hooked. The traditional Calabrian (Southern Italy) peasant recipe is named after Nona Nina, the grandmother of chef Ella’s friend. Even more special is the fact that Ella wears Nina’s original aprons while souping in Barwon Heads, “she handed me the aprons and I wear them while cooking. It puts the love in.”
The soup arrives in a perfectly portioned white bowl atop a plate with home-made seeded bread and a dollop of butter. The garnish is boss, vibrant green and yellow. Fresh coriander and grated lemon jump out, smacking my mouth with a loving Nona tap. This flavour bomb cradles mountains of precisely chopped veggies and plentiful chunks of chicken. But the real treat is discovering a large globular hunk of melted Parmesan. I keep this in my mouth a little longer than usual. Absorbing its delicious, salty meltedness. It’s hard to let go, but eventually I manage and dive in to find another one. I leave all my manners behind, picking up the bowl to guzzle the last drops. I must not leave anything behind. This is the kind of food that gives you head spins, in a good way. Your body will thank you and you’ll begin to wonder what ‘foods’ you’ve been eating all your life.
For 16 years Paul Fox and Dinah Karklins have run Starfish Bakery along with their staff serving breakfast, lunch and coffee with a homely smile. Handmade specialty loaves of bread are baked fresh daily and sit on display. It’s a cosy, bustling place with earthy coloured walls hanging local art. The courtyard is speckled with blue and yellow mosaic wall tiles and the creeper canopy stretches wide for the playful sparrows.
Visitors are a mixture of locals and others passing through. Some eat a Zuess inspired breakfast of green eggs and ham, others muesli. Little girls in ballet costumes sip on free babyccinos enjoying the toy corner. The take-home meals are a hit, leaving in the arms of trendy fringed bespectacled lassies in high-topped jeans.
The ‘squishy’ and ‘squashy’ (egg and bacon roll with options of herb mayo, smashed avo and mushys) are a tradies delight. As are gourmet pies, sausage rolls and pasties. And for the health freaks, there’s the Vego Fritzburg’s – zucchini fritter, with mountainous salad, goat’s cheese and green tahini dressing.
Forget what you know about conventional bakeries stocked with minimal selection pastry goods served by a hairy grumpy baker. Starfish is so, so much more. Like the raspberry and white chocolate crunchy-topped muffin I couldn’t resist. Sweet heavenly party-on-my-tongue goodness. Do it.
You can find Starfish Bakery at 78 Hitchcock Ave, Barwon Heads, or contact them on (03) 5254 2772.
Written by Heidi Atkins