Paranormal Wines is no ordinary bottle-o. Flying under the radar as a suburban wine shop, it’s a quietly brilliant venue dishing up some top-notch snacks in quirky surroundings.
Arriving shortly after 6:30 pm, the place is already comfortably full, and my friend and I perch at the communal table to check out what’s on offer.
The menu is fairly small, but so is the kitchen and it’s clear that Chef Aidan Kidson – who also runs Shakewell Hot Sauce – has crafted a list that allows him to plate up big flavours quickly and efficiently.
The first part of the menu is essentially a selection of ‘things on toast’, which is, frankly, one of my favourite food groups. My friend and I had planned to have two of these items each as a starter, but I spied a plate heading out of the kitchen as I stepped up to order at the counter and saw they were bigger than I expected. I made the call to split three toasty treats between us, as well as ordering the romesco salsa and a bowl of pasta with ‘nduja (Calabrian soft salami) to share.
By the time we’ve ordered, a table has opened up for us so we sit near the window and choose our wines. My friend is a rosé drinker and takes a chance with a fun name: Rainbow Juice.
I have a bit more trouble deciding.
Max Walker, the owner of Paranormal Wines, talked me through some options by asking me what kind of wines I like to drink and what vibe I’m going for. It’s a casual, unfussy and personal approach to recommendations that sums up Paranormal Wines’ ethos of approachable drinking. I end up with a skins-y white wine, similar to a riesling, which is perfect with our snacks.
The first plate of food comes out quickly and we dig into the ‘stuff on toast’.
First, sardines with radishes and a green goddess dressing, then a fresh, herby, smoked trout paté and spicy salami with ricotta and warm honey. The heat and salt of LP meat’s salami picanté are so perfectly contrasted by the creamy ricotta and floral sweetness of the honey. It’s stunningly simple but executed perfectly.
That’s a theme that runs throughout Paranormal Wines: simplicity done well. The shelves are stocked with beautiful bottles from small winemakers chosen for flavour and fun rather than adhering to stuffy old-world categories.
At its heart, great wine is made by allowing the natural flavours of grapes to shine through excellent technique and process. Similarly, the menu allows great ingredients to take centre stage through technique and presentation that, while excellent, is understated.
Next, we have the romesco salsa with sourdough and charred red onion.
Romesco salsa is a Spanish dip made from roasted capsicum and almonds. It encapsulates the mood of the warm summer evening and is exactly right for this style of casual but classy dining. Snacking away on the delicious dip while my friend gets caught up telling a story, I find myself having to move the plate, so I don’t eat more than my fair share while I listen.
I switched to Italian red wine to accompany the casarecce pasta with ‘nduja. As with most of the menu, these dishes change weekly and the pasta is generally only available on Friday nights.
It’s also worth visiting on Saturdays to try their special lunch item, which is usually a tasty reimagining of an old-school dish and often sells out. Recent offerings have included Nashville-style hot chicken sandwiches, prawn rolls and fish fillet burgers.
Last drinks are called at around 8 pm, which I’d ordinarily consider early for a bar, but the Paranormal team has clearly found their niche and aren’t interested in overstretching their staff and their energy by pushing late nights or opening every day.
As a former hospitality worker, I respect the boundaries, and if it means they keep delivering such a high standard, I’ll gladly make time on a Friday night to drop in for a bowl of pasta or a little something on toast.
Paranormal Wines is located at G27/6 Provan Street, Campbell. They are open from 11 am to 8 pm Wednesday to Saturday, and from 12 pm to 7 pm on Sunday.
Find out more on the Paranormal Wines website, or follow them on Instagram or Facebook.