Pimlico: a love letter to Cask

Seventh in a series of articles on Pimlico, putting words to page on an area of London that I’ve lived in for a few years.  If these read well, I might cover other parts of London I know or explore in the same manner. You can use the ‘Pimlico’ category tag on this site to see the related posts. This one is about a particularly special pub that is here.

Cask is my local pub. It’s very local. I can get there from my front door in less than 60 steps, if I want to. That’s local. It’s fair to say that I’ve been there quite few times, and I felt that if I am going to write about Pimlico, I would be remiss not to dedicate some word space to this particular pub.

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The entrance sign to Cask.

Part of the buildings that are collectively the Lillington and Longmore Estate, along with The Pride of Pimlico down the road and Moo on Vauxhall Bridge Road, Cask is fairly easy to overlook by assuming it is just a pub for locals. But Cask has been mentioned on a number of ‘best pubs in London’ lists, and is actually fairly well-known (see here, here, here, here and here).

This is both because of its simplicity as a venue, but also the beers on tap. Cask is owned and run by the same duo behind the Craft Beer Co chain of pubs that you may have seen around town, predating the chain by two years when it opened doors in 2009. If a list of best beer pubs doesn’t have Cask, then that’s because it has a Craft Beer Co pub on it, instead. The enthusiasm that Martin Hayes (a Pimlico native) and his friend Peter Slezak have for beer is clear as soon as you look at the options available.

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A few of the beers.

They change their beers regularly, but the selections are always varied, and sometime very unusual indeed – Blackberry beer, anyone? The staff are versed in the product they sell, and able to give advice (and samples) if you are unsure what to order. They are a friendly team, and very patient – they are used to newly-surprised customers that don’t recognise anything on offer. They staff at Cask have taught me that I like red ales, IPAs, smoked lager, and that I enjoy a particularly crisp pilsner in the summer. They have shown me that a strong beer doesn’t pull its punches at all, as I swayed from only my second drink. And they have shown me that exploring unusual beer is fun: who knew that a beer can be infused with thyme?

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Red ale.

The regular rotation of drinks at Cask isn’t entirely without mercy. When new stock is in, and you are not at all sure what to order, there are always a few pumps at the end of the bar with regular and familiar drinks available. Even these are not brands that you will find in other pubs, but at least once you know them you have a fall-back, should you not wish to experiment that day.

A beer menu is available if you are feeling particularly adventurous, although the costs can rise as you start getting to the more exotic options that Cask can provide. It quickly becomes apparent Martin and Peter have a very wide knowledge of beers. For those who are not into beer, however, all is not lost. Cask will forgive you and offer up the usual other options that one would expect in a British boozer.

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And now I’m hungry.

Food-wise, the main option during the week is the burger. There are side dishes, but they have a simple approach to food here. Like burgers? Great, you’ve got options on what type (including chicken and vegetarian). Want something else? Um, sorry. By keeping it simple they also keep the kitchen’s turnaround time short, so you’ll rarely have to wait for long before your order is bought over to you, even on busy days.

And it does get busy. Being well-known, and being reliable, Cask attracts a steady flow of customers on week nights, and becomes standing room-only on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s a peaceful place during the day, but certainly picks up a crowd on weekend nights. During the summer this crowd spills onto the pavement outside in a happy bubble of tipsy patrons, even on weekdays, as the after-work crowd come over for a drink. Despite living so close to Cask I don’t mind this at all – it’s nice to see everyone having a good time with their friends.

Things change up a bit on Sundays, and the reason is twofold. First, there is the Sunday lunch. Cask swaps out the burger menu for a traditional roast lunch menu, and does it well. Many a hangover has been fended off by the Sunday roast beef, and they are not shy about their portions. Come to Cask on a Sunday and you will enjoy a good lunch, assuming you like roasts. If you don’t, well I’m not sure we can still be friends. Cask’s roast beef is nearly good enough to remind me of my mum’s. And we all know how good our mum’s roast is, don’t we?

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Even. More. Hungry. Now.

 

The other great thing about Cask on a Sunday is the live music. From 4:30 in the afternoon to 7:30 in the evening, Cask has a regular acoustic band that come in. There is no stage in Cask, so the band simply sit around a table in the middle of everybody, order a few beers and break out their instruments. It’s not exactly the same group of musicians each week, but they are a regular group, and can vary between five and eight quite easily. They play folk and bluegrass, in the main, and are very much welcomed and enjoyed by the customers as they play with each other, sometimes seeming to improvise or learn new songs as they go. They are evidently talented people.

It’s a great feeling, to be sitting after a Sunday roast, swimming lightly in the warm hug from a third beer, and to be listening to music that reminds you of more communal times. And it is rewarding to look around the room and see that you are with a group of people who are also feeling the same, and to hear the enthusiastic applause the end of each song. There’s few, if any, other pubs that do what Cask does on a Sunday.

Cask comes, very much, with my recommendation.

You can use the ‘Pimlico’ category tag on this site to see the related posts.


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