date of visit: Sunday 22 January 2017
Our last (and only prior) visit to the Duck Inn was about eight years ago. Yep. Eight years ago. We didn’t have a great experience – although a big part of that was some rather disruptive children (I’m still pretty grumpy about children’s behaviour, even though I now have one of my own). And it’s taken us eight long years to recover and return.
And our return wasn’t even premeditated! We’d had a day out in the Hills and our plan had been for a late lunch or early dinner somewhere in our wanderings. It turned out that our activities wrapped up around 4pm – too early for most places to be serving and too early for dinner. So we headed home, paused at Apex Park, and hit The Duck Inn’s dining room for pretty much bang on 5:30 (opening time).
Since our last visit, The Duck Inn has installed a deck area so you can sit outside and eat or drink. Even though the pub is slap bang on Main Road, it’s still a semi-rural setting so sitting outside is not to be sneezed at. We sat inside though – we hadn’t booked and I was actually quite surprised we got a table at all!
The dining room is separate from the front bar and, in a very pleasant change (at least as far as this grumpy old lady is concerned!), it’s actually pretty quiet. On a Sunday afternoon there is live music in the front bar but everything is set up so you can just hear the music but your conversation is not drowned out. Please, please – keep things this way!
Luckily, the menu had changed since our last visit (!) and it’s a bit more interesting than a pub standard – and there is also a short list of specials. In a slightly controversial (at least as far as our six year old is concerned) move, there is currently no salt and pepper squid on the menu, but you can choose a spicy squid salad, a burger or a schnitzel or you can go for something less pub-like by choosing a slow-braised duck ragout or twice-cooked pork belly.
I opted for the pasta special – orecchiette with Barossa chorizo, asparagus, spinach and red onion in a white wine and cream sauce (this is the type of pasta that Andy LOATHES so I have to go for it while I’m out – though I was sorely tempted by the gnocchi with Adelaide Hills forest mushrooms …). Andy and Master 6 both ordered fish and chips. Master 6 ordered from the very short children’s menu – which includes a drink and an icecream sundae. Rather than activity packs for children, the children’s menu is printed on an activity sheet (just the right number of activities too!) and the staff will give you a pencil case full of pencils & a sharpener. I think this is a great approach. Another big plus is that all the children’s meals come with salad (hoo-bloody-ray!).
The food all got a big tick – the difference between ‘normal’ fish and chips and the children’s was that adults get two pieces of fish, children one (although as an adult, you can order a half portion) and children get tomato sauce rather than tartare sauce. The salad is actually an Asian slaw which obviously has a soy sauce based dressing. This is a little disconcerting – as it arrives looking a touch brown – but it was fresh and crisp!
The pasta wasn’t too bad – there was tons of the sauce which isn’t a problem because you can just leave what you don’t eat. I really enjoyed the combination of flavours and it wasn’t overly salty (which often happens, especially when cured meats like chorizo are introduced …). The portion was generous without being overwhelming (I was starving so I might feel differently about this on another visit).
The staff were all friendly and service was casual but efficient. Even at 5:30 on a Sunday there were quite a few tables eating and if you want to dine at a busier time, I would recommend booking.
As I realised while we were there, The Duck is part of the group which also boasts The Mile End (I wrote about this pub a couple of years ago for SA Life), The Colonist and The Unley. I’ve been lucky enough to be a guest at events at these pubs previously and the aim is clearly to lift the standard of the menus. I’m really pleased that the same approach has been applied to The Duck. We’re also pleased it’s close to home – we’ll be return visitors!
The Duck Inn
393 Main Road
Coromandel Valley 5051
phone: 08 8278 7100