10 October 2021

Five minutes with Max Walker, Paranormal Wines

| Lottie Twyford
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Max Walker with a glass of wine

Max Walker of Paranormal Wines. Photo: buffet.digital.

Who is Max Walker? I’m the co-owner of Paranormal Wines in Campbell.

Best recent dining experience: My partner Georgia and I have been doing the rounds of all the great restaurants’ takeaway offerings under lockdown. The highlight has to be Pilot’s lockdown dinner pack – roast chicken with spinach and gravy, roasted Ingelara Farm potatoes and a simple leaf salad.

Chefs Mal and Barry totally nailed it.

Most embarrassing pantry item: I love cooking so much and am happy to prep almost all ingredients, but I cannot stand peeling garlic cloves. I cook with garlic a lot and a few years ago I discovered pre-peeled cloves, usually found at good Asian grocers. Since then, I’ve never looked back.

Must-buy ingredient: See above! Either that or Lulu’s Remedy Chilli Oil.

Next big thing: Piquette. A delicious and refreshing beverage that is a by-product of the winemaking process made by re-fermenting the leftover must (pressed grape skins) after a press. You end up with a fresher, spritzer-like drink that is much lower in alcohol than regular wine, made from products that would otherwise be discarded.

Young guns Fin Wines in Victoria make a killer range and we’ve been lucky enough to make one in collaboration with Ravensworth. Everyone should be drinking them!


Rebel Rebel’s famed breakfast Shawarma. Photo: Rebel Rebel.

Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: Hands down, the best breakfast has to be the shawarma at Rebel Rebel.

My Canberra food secret: I’m pretty new to Canberra so I’m not sure if it’s necessarily a secret, but the T & E Asian Grocery in Fyshwick was a revelation to me. So many awesome Japanese, Korean, Latin American ingredients, plus it’s the only place I’ve been able to find masa harina for tacos and Crystal, my favourite hot sauce. They also have a wild range of crazy American cereals which I don’t go near.

READ ALSO Five minutes with Lucas Woods, beverage director, Aubergine restaurant

Biggest culinary influence: Probably both my parents in different ways. My mother was an incredible cook and hosted so many amazing dinner parties, I was very spoiled by her skills growing up. She would always pursue new cuisines with such determination, always needing to create the best possible version of every single dish she cooked.

My father isn’t much of a cook (sorry, Dad), but he instilled in me a great love of restaurants and dining out. He’s always been so passionate about the way food, wine, service and atmosphere can combine to create truly life-changing experiences.

Favourite cookbook: Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal. For many years, El Bulli was the most famous restaurant in the world, but the recipes in this book are based around their staff meals. The layout is amazing. It is essentially picture-based which makes everything so easy – ‘cook this until it looks like this’. Absolute genius.

Two men in a shed

Samuel Leyshon (left) from Mallaluka Wines is one of Max’s food and wine heroes. Photo: Ilkka Sirén.

Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: One of the best things about Canberra is the people in the hospitality scene. Having lived in Sydney and Melbourne, I was struck by how little ego there is here. Most people are so open and generous in sharing their experiences.

There’s almost too many to mention, but wine-wise I think Bryan Martin of Ravensworth and Sam Leyshon of Mallaluka Wines are two of the best winemakers in the country, as well as being two of the loveliest people out there.

What’s on the menu this week: Under lockdown, we have been offering our limited picnic packs on weekends. They consist of a mixture of smallgoods from LP’s Quality Meats, a selection of cheeses, pickles, olives, a baguette, Pepe Saya butter and a choice of wine.

From 15 October, we’ll be back with our dine-in antipasti menu which is exciting! Look out for marinated piquillo peppers, white bean dip with lemon and our favourite Olasagasti anchovies.

Aubergine restaurant

Max can’t wait to get out of the house for a fine dining experience at the elegant Aubergine. Photo: Lean Timms.

Where I’m going next: Aubergine. I haven’t dined there since Caitlin Baker and Lucas Woods took over the floor and drinks program. Ben Willis’ food is amazing and after lockdown, I’m so excited to enjoy an indulgent dining-out experience. It’ll sure make a change from pasta on the couch!

Death row meal: Has to be steak frites with béarnaise and a bottle of Morgon Beaujolais.

My COVID-19 response: We have been very lucky in the sense that the idea for Paranormal Wines came to us during the first lockdown so we have always been prepared. Being able to trade only as a bottle shop has meant a decline, but we are much more fortunate than a lot of small businesses out there.

My really simple recipe tip: Gremolata makes most things better. It is just parsley, raw garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest, all chopped and grated together and added at the last minute to soups, stews, pasta or any grilled meat, fish or vegetable.

Paranormal Wines is located at 27/6 Provan Street, Campbell. During lockdown, it’s open for takeaway drinks and snacks, as well as weekend picnic packs, Wednesday to Saturday between 11 am and 8 pm, and Sundays between 12 pm and 6 pm.

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