Take one bite of any of the signature sourdough loaves at Catherine Adams's Starta Bread Kitchen and the taste may ring a fond bell. That's because you're likely to have tried her coveted bread at one of the many world-class local restaurants she supplies to — Whitebait, Loretta and Floriditas to name just a few.
Thank goodness there's now a flagship store dedicated to serving Catherine's range of Wellington Sourdough loaves in one handy, central location.
Tucked away on the Victoria Street end of Left Bank Lane, Starta is definitely one of those places where word of mouth reigns in the marketing stakes. It can be an adventure to find, even with trusty Google Maps by your side, but once you get there you'll realise why Wellington's top eateries are so keen to snap up Catherine's breads.
Step inside and let your senses be pampered like they've never been pampered before. The homely aroma of fresh baked goods embraces you as you open the door, and the sight is a treat for aficionados of gorgeous interiors. The polished concrete floors complement the warm cedar panels and white marble counter superbly, and everything's so spotless you almost fear what will happen if you spill a crumb. (Don't worry, everyone there is lovely.)
We couldn't resist starting with their range of delectable pastries, taking pride of place in the counter cabinet. The strawberry and rhubarb brioche and roasted pear and almond brioche (both $4.50) are absolutely divine. Both are incredibly soft and fluffy, and the strawberry and rhubarb compote in particular is spectacular. You can tell the pastries are fresh even from behind the cabinet, and they go very well with their range of Supreme coffee.
Of course, no trip to Starta is complete without bagging one of their legendary sourdough loaves as a souvenir. All of their loaves are numbered — we recommend the Number 8, imaginatively named Mr Potato Man with rosemary and nigella ($6.50). Served warm with a beautifully thick crust, the distinctive sourdough tang isn't the only thing that will make you weak. Tear off a portion and let the rosemary and potato chunks inside consume you.
If Starta isn't the best bakery in Wellington (dare we say, New Zealand?), then it's certainly up there. The amazing bread and pastries on offer, along with the beautiful interior and easy vibes, are tempting enough. But add the almost unbelievably reasonable prices and you get the near-perfect package.
Starta still very much has the feel of a hidden gem. At this rate though, it won't be long before it's the bakery on every Wellingtonian's lips.