1.Rinse the vongole thoroughly under cold running water to remove any grit and sand. Add vongole and wine to a large heated saucepan. Cook, covered, over high heat, for about 4 minutes or until vongole open. Remove pan from heat and strain vongole over large bowl. Measure 300ml of the cooking liquid and reserve.
2.Meanwhile, melt butter in the same large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook onion, bacon and celery, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until browned lightly. Add flour, cook, stirring, for about 1 minute or until mixture thickens. Gradually stir in reserved cooking liquid, crumbled stock cubes, water, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves and potatoes.
3.Bring to the boil; cook, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the potato is tender.
4.Meanwhile, for garlic bread, preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced). Cut french stick into thick slices, leaving base intact. Spread slices on both sides with combined butter and garlic. Wrap the bread stick in foil, leaving top slightly open. Bake for about 15 minutes or until butter has melted.
5.Just before serving, stir vongole and parsley through chowder. Serve with garlic bread.