The heart of Marysville beats again, as Ashraf and Christine Doos launch the all-new Duck Inn from the ashes of the town razed nearly eight years ago on Black Saturday.
Beer flowed at Marysville’s pub on Wednesday for the first time since the catastrophic bushfires of (Black Saturday*) 9 February, 2009, when over a dozen regions including Kinglake-Marysville were laid to waste.
Egypt-born Ashraf and wife Christine came to the area in 2002. Capitalising on his training as a chef and hers as a pastry chef they opened a fully licensed patisserie, which thrived until its demise by fire in 2009.
Having worked in hospitality with Hilton around the world for 25 years, mostly in management, then a 7-year stint managing Melbourne’s Savoy Park Plaza before the whirlwind of the 7-day-a-week patisserie, Doos immediately returned to the capital and opened a restaurant, just five weeks after the fires.
“People said I was crazy, but I was grieving and just had to work,” Ashraf told PubTIC.
Despite that business also becoming very successful, the couple yearned to return to the tranquillity of Marysville, just 90 minutes outside Melbourne. In 2011, they were the first to rebuild, reopening their patisserie to immediate success.
The Doos’ owned the freehold of the barren block of land that used to be the Marysville Hotel, and wanted to bring a food & bev-focused public house back into their little town. With the kids now grown and out of the house, they felt they had the time to dedicate to launching such an initiative, and two years ago began work on the Duck Inn.
“The first couple of days have been crazy,” reports Ashraf. “All the locals are coming, and tourists, we had media for the launch, crews from channels seven, nine and ten, and local radio.
“We only have 70 seats. We’re doing pub meals and snacks and have bottled beer and five beers on tap, mostly local breweries.”
The patisserie has been closed and the couple are converting it to a bed & breakfast. They live next door, and the pub is across the road, making the ownership commitment a little easier.
Spring sees Marysville come alive, literally, with hundreds of new-born ducklings and their mothers. Signs are erected to warn cars of the delicate road obstacles waddling about.
Coincidentally one of Ashraf’s favourites as a chef, duck has inspired both the name of the pub and several dishes on the menu, alongside pies, parmas and other pub favourites – all prepared onsite fresh each day.
The pub itself is a cosy space, with an open fire and kitchen that invites intimacy. The soft pastels and timber finishes seem to embody the laid-back lifestyle of the town.
“The area is a lot like Europe,” offers Ashfar.
“You come to this town to relax. It’s a lifestyle. I feel like I’m in heaven.”
*Black Saturday was Australia’s worst ever bushfire in terms of loss of life. 173 people perished and 414 were injured as intense weather fuelled fires that destroyed over 450,000 hectares (1.1 million acres)