Five minutes with Max Walker, Paranormal Wines

Max Walker with a glass of wine

Max Walker of paranormal wines. Photo:

Who’s Max Walker? I am a co-owner of Paranormal Wines in Campbell.

Best recent dining experience: My partner Georgia and I have completed all the good restaurants takeaway deals during lockdown. The highlight should be Pilot’s lockdown dinner package – fried chicken with spinach and gravy, roasted Ingelara Farm potatoes and a simple leafy salad.

Chefs Mal and Barry followed suit.

Most embarrassing pantry item: I love to cook so much and am happy to prepare almost any ingredient, but I can not stand peeling garlic clove. I cook with garlic a lot, and a few years ago I discovered pre-peeled cloves that are usually found at good Asian grocers. Since then, I have never looked back.

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

Next big thing: Piquette. A delicious and refreshing drink that is a by-product of the winemaking process, produced by fermenting the remaining 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 Cannons Fin Wines in Victoria is making a killer area and we have been fortunate to make one in collaboration with Ravensworth. Everyone should drink them!


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

Favorite place for breakfast in ACT: Hands down, the best breakfast should be the shawarma at Rebel Rebel.

My Canberra Food Secret: I’m pretty new to Canberra, so I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a secret, but the T & E Asian grocery store in Fyshwick was a revelation to me. So many amazing Japanese, Korean, Latin American ingredients, plus it’s the only place I’ve been able to find masa harina for tacos and Crystal, my favorite hot sauce. They also have a wild selection of crazy American grains that I do not go near.

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

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

My dad is not very much a chef (sorry dad), but he instilled in me a great love for restaurants and eateries. He has always been so passionate about the way food, wine, service and atmosphere can combine to create truly life-changing experiences.

Favorite 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 on staff meals. The layout is fantastic. It’s essentially image-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. After living 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 are almost too many to mention, but in terms of wine, I think Bryan Martin from Ravensworth and Sam Leyshon from Mallaluka Wines are two of the best wineries in the country, as well as being two of the nicest people out there.

What’s on the menu this week: During lockdown, we have offered our limited picnic packages over the weekend. They consist of a mix of small items from LP’s Quality Meats, a selection of cheeses, pickles, olives, a baguette, Pepe Saya butter and a choice of wine.

From the 15th of October we are back with our dinner with antipasti menu, which is exciting! Keep an eye out for marinated piquillo peppers, white bean dip with lemon and our favorite Olasagasti anchovies.

Eggplant restaurant

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

Where should I go next: Eggplant. I have not eaten there since Caitlin Baker and Lucas Woods took over the floor and the drinking program. Ben Willis’ food is amazing and after the lockdown I am so excited to enjoy a relaxing dining experience. It will definitely change from the pasta on the couch!

Right of death meal: Must be steak fries with bearnaise and a bottle of Morgon Beaujolais.

My COVID-19 answer: 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. Just being able to shop like a bottle store has meant a drop, but we are much luckier than many small businesses out there.

My really simple recipe tip: Gremolata does most things better. It’s 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 grilled meats, fish or vegetables.

Paranormal Wines is located at 27/6 Provan Street, Campbell. During lockdown, it is open for takeaway drinks and snacks as well as weekend picnic packages, Wednesday to Saturday between 11 and 20 and Sundays between 12 and 14.

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