104 Street will soon be bookended by two upscale pubs – the Mercer Tavern at 104 Avenue is set to open this summer, while the newest addition to the Promenade, Cask & Barrel, opened last week.
This soft opening has allowed the kitchen and wait staff to work out initial kinks, but they’re leading up to their grand opening party on March 30 and 31, 2012. Mack and I were invited to a sneak peek on Wednesday night, and walked down the block after work to check out our new local. Owners Wayne Jones (of the Starlite Room and Brixx Bar & Grill) and Susan Forsey also live just down the street, so in many ways, this is simply a parlour they wanted to see in their neighbourhood as much as it is a business venture.
Susan Forsey of Cask & Barrel
Tucked on the southeast end of the Jaffer Building, and still without external signage, Cask & Barrel doesn’t quite have street presence yet, but in the summer, they hope to extend their seating on a sidewalk patio. Once inside, however, the interior makes an impression. It reminded me of what Local Public Eatery set out to be when it first opened in Edmonton – if it were less corporate, more intimate, and not situated in South Edmonton Common.
The colours are quite muted, with shades of textured blue and grey on the floor and walls. But they work well with the large windows and multitude of natural accents in the room, including raw wood above the sunken bar, tree stumps as lounge tables, and perhaps my favourite – Vinoture up-cycled bar stools constructed from discarded wine barrels. The theme of re-using and re-purposing items also shows itself in the light fixtures as well – overturned salad bowls became light shades, and dated chandeliers destined for the trash bin found new life once given a makeover. Though there will be a few more additions to the decor (such as locally-produced art), the room felt comfortable and pleasing aesthetically.
Wine barrel to bar stool!
Chef Mikael Charlton, who worked in Victoria prior to relocating to Edmonton, has created a casual menu featuring his twists on pub favourites priced at $8.50-$12.50, including eight different sandwiches. Susan treated us to two entrees and drinks during our visit, and after careful deliberation, we chose to sample their versions of mac ‘n’ cheese and chicken pot pie.
Mack enjoyed the farafelle baked with three cheeses and cream, but I would have preferred a slightly saucier base (our favourite mac ‘n’ cheeses are enveloped in the sauce). The chicken savoury, a butter chicken pot pie topped with layered pastry was excellent – nice heat, tender meat, and a well-seasoned gravy. The side of beef barley soup could have used some more salt and a lighter hand with the cornstarch, but the Chef acknowledged that it was a recipe he was working on. As a whole, however, Mack and I agreed that the portion sizes were good – not overwhelming but filling.
In the weeks to come, Chef Charlton will continue to make some adjustments to the menu. In the summer, Cask & Barrel is planning to open for weekend brunches, and will hope to incorporate ingredients gleaned from the City Market in those meals. Susan also mentioned that she’d like to offer “connoisseur” events in the future as well, which will encourage both new and experienced beer and whisky drinkers the opportunity to taste and learn more.
We had a great first experience at Cask & Barrel, and best of all, we know it’s not our last. It’s a great addition to our neighbourhood, and one we will be returning to soon!
Cask & Barrel (Twitter: @caskNbarrel)
10041 104 Street