Feels like home: Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses are serving up some serious nostalgia

Feels like home: Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses are serving up some serious nostalgia

Words by Talia Rinaldo

The scent of fresh pies and pasties is one of the greatest wonders.

In times of uncertainty, change and stress, we find ourselves coping in many ways.

One way – the best way – is through nostalgia. We long for simpler times and the rose-coloured glasses with which we view the past. Our brains make connections to tastes, places and scents that comfort us and make us feel at peace.

We are in the midst of a historic (and historically uncomfortable) event, and that has many of us dreaming of days long gone and searching for comfort and tradition in our everyday lives, with a focus on our emotional connection to food.

Comfort and traditional foods offer people something soothing and familiar, reminding them of childhood, stirring up memories of a simpler, safer time.

Take a bakery, for example. When was the last time you looked at a bakery and thought, ‘Geez that was a bad time’? Never, right?

Think about the aroma of freshly-baked bread and the conversations with the sweet bakers. The awe-inspiring glass cake counter showcasing tantalising goodies and the memory of tucking into a lamington before you had even left the store. We love all the things there are to love about bakeries.

Even ordering the semi-circular pastie with a distinctive crimped edge, also known as the Tiddly Oggie, for the very first time; or the experience of scoffing a sausage roll and letting the light, flaky pastry and delish meaty centre melt in your mouth while wiping the crumbs from your shorts.

And of course, a bakery would not be what it is today without the humble meat pie. As a kid right through to adulthood, there was nothing quite like the smell and savoury taste sensation found in this warm, mince-filled bakery delight. Encased in buttery shortcrust pastry, with a rich beef filling and a flaky pastry top, the appeal of the pie is perhaps the most sentimental of the lot.

Evoking warm feelings in the form of its baked goods and cozy setting, it’s the way families attach themselves to bakeries for generations that we love the most.

Built on expectation, spirit and pleasure, Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses has always been and still is a family-owned and operated business, hand-crafting their delicious desserts, birthday, wedding cakes, award-winning meat pies and Tiddly Oggies.

Their story starts the way the best do: with delicious baked goods, bright minds and a touch of friendly rivalry.

From humble beginnings in 1901, Mrs Ferguson began a wedding and birthday cake business in Lygon Street, Carlton. Then, ten years later, Otto Plarre opened his first bakery in Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds.

Plarre’s Cakes and J.A. Ferguson become household names in Melbourne, and it wasn’t long before the families started stocking their outlets with their respective products, filling their gaps and refining their craft. What began as a friendly experiment in trading soon developed into a relationship that would see the two companies eventually join forces in 1980.

The businesses officially merged to become the renowned Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses, combining an impressive marriage of knowledge and experience boasting over 200 years of combined expertise.

Fast forward to today, and you will find more than 80 Ferguson Plarre stores across Victoria selling all sorts of delicious treats like pies, vanilla slices, eclairs, all made at their Keilor Park headquarters. You can even put your face on a cake with their design-a-cake tool.

Committed to ensuring Victorians have access to premium quality bakery products at reasonable prices, Ferguson Plarre only uses the very best ingredients, continuously maintaining excellent and innovation in their baking.

The plethora of baking excellence awards to their name is a testament to this. They have received accolades for everything; from having the best-decorated cakes, Australia’s best hot-cross buns, and even earning the title for Victoria’s Best Sausage Roll.

Many awards can be attributed to the famed original Tiddly Oggie, which has taken out gold in several competitions around the country. Most recently it was named the Best Traditional Pastie at the annual Baking Association of Australia awards – meaning their Tiddly Oggie is the best pastie in the entire country.

The praises extend even beyond their food, with Ferguson Plarre also recognised for their response to climate change through sustainable baking and business practices. Absolute legends, right?

As one of the very few Australian iconic food companies left in family hands, it is clear that culture and family sit at the heart of everything they do, reminding us of simpler times in the business realm. Australia’s love for Ferguson Plarre – and their traditional food – is everlasting, especially as we’re all trying to adjust to our new normal.

Just one look at the bakehouse’s menu and we are overwhelmed with the yearning for the comforts a bakery brings.

Their pies boast familiar fillings: beef, country chicken, steak and onion, chunky vegetable, cottage pie, beef and mushroom, among other Aussie favourites. There are also more avant-garde versions like the butter chicken pie, that combine fond memories with excitement, only furthering our love of the classic dish.

Their mouth-watering sausage rolls, with their buttery, flaky pastry perfection is another classic. While a lot of bakehouses have reduced the size of these tasty pastries over the years, Ferguson Plarre doesn’t skimp on the goods, delivering the perfect sized lunchtime choice.

Here, you get to experience the olden satisfaction of using every ounce of your squeeze-mate tomato-sauce dispenser and having to reach for a second; that’s when you know you are onto a good bakery.

We’d be remiss not no highlight the award-winning Tiddly Oggie. Packed with delicious local and 100% natural ingredients and made the good ol’ fashioned way… with plenty of love, leaving Ferguson Plarre with one of this convenient handheld meals-for-one has had customers simply feeling full and content for almost 120 years.

We’re getting homesick just thinking about all these Australian classics.

Heck, even those who look back at bakeries with longing looks thanks to their gluten-intolerances or plant-based lifestyles can indulge in the nostalgic pleasure a bakery has to offer. Ferguson Plarre leaves no stone unturned, having mastered the art of plant-based alternatives and gluten-free baking.

With a bounty of options, choose from the gluten-free classic beef pie (tested and endorsed by Coeliac Australia), plant-based wholemeal Tiddly Oggie, the plant-based sausage roll, and the plant-based Aussie pie.

The real kicker is that it tastes just like a classic Australian pie. With all the key elements – great pastry, delicious gravy and a hearty filling – customers can enjoy the comfort of Australia’s most famous snack, just without meat.

You simply can’t deny the joy of a good bakery; it never ages. They might have experienced great growth and scale over the years, but at the heart of Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses is that same nose-pressed-to-the-glass, nostrils heady with the slightly-sweet yeasty aroma that captured us as children, eyes like dinner plates and hands ready to grab.

Need a Ferguson Plarre fix? Head to the website to find your closest location, or if you prefer delivery to your door you can find their stores on UberEats, 13things, Doordash or Deliveroo where available.

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