The Owl gastropub will be the first - with more to come
Kirkgate Market and the founders of HOME restaurant have signed a brave and exciting deal, bringing a number of new food concepts to the old market halls.
Local chef Liz Cottam began her professional culinary journey as a contestant on the 2016 series of BBC Masterchef. She then joined forces with fellow chef Mark Owens (who previously retained a Michelin star for The Box Tree, Ilkley) to open HOME, in Leeds city centre, in August 2017.
I think it’s about time our markets got back to their former glory
Now the pair have revealed plans for a series of ventures destined to bring a flourish (and footfall) to Leeds Kirkgate Market. They are hoping to attract more city centre visitors to the historically significant Leeds hub - the largest covered market in Europe - giving a real lease of life to a city centre venue very dear to Liz’s heart.
“Mum and dad owned spit-and-sawdust pubs around Leeds in the 1980s, and we’d shop at the market almost every day,” she says.
“It was thriving and buzzing back then, and was very much part of my childhood.It was no frills, but good quality. Some products were artisan, some mass-produced. It was almost like an early version of Aldi, but then supermarkets happened, convincing us to buy pretty food in out-of-town stores. It was sad to see it decline. But people are now learning more about produce, becoming aware of the choices they are making, and being more discerning. I think it’s about time our markets got back to their former glory.”
Cottam and Owen plan to launch no less than four disparate foodie concepts in Kirkgate Market this year, with the aim of catering for everybody; from market regulars, a Leeds shopper who has never set foot inside Kirkgate, or one of their existing fine-dining customers from HOME.
New menus will range from informal snacks and coffee, unique and exclusive chef’s table experiences, takeaway office lunches-on-the-go or even champagne, oysters and crab pie.
Although the team will continue to do work very closely on HOME there is going to be an additional venture headed up by Liz on her own. This soon-to-be-announced concept will reveal her vision for a chef’s table-style, high-end, intimate dining experience.
The Owl gastropub is the first of their four new market ventures to be announced, transforming four units into one on Fish & Game Row, alongside Butcher’s Row. This is the oldest part of the ornate market building, dating back to 1875. It’s been named because of the remnants of stone-carved owls you can make out in the arches above.
It will focus on great beer in collaboration with Northern Monk (with many other taps of great beer on rotation), and will be one of the only places outside of London to offer fine wines on tap. It will serve up the best market produce, with emphasis on whole roasts - predominantly fish and game - inspired by their surroundings.
“I’ve wanted to do something in this amazing building for a long time,” says Liz. “I was originally going to do one thing. But then if we want to actually push for some serious change, more is needed. So it seemed like a good idea to do as many things as possible - so there are lots of new reasons for people to go to the market. It would demonstrate a significant change.
“I’m extremely passionate about my region, my city and my market,” she continues. “For me the market is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. There’s nowhere like Yorkshire - it’s the most inspiring place. I’ve always thought that. I just don’t want to be anywhere else!”
Cllr Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment, Leeds City Council said:
“We are thrilled that Liz Cottam has chosen Leeds Kirkgate Market as the location for her new venture. Our market is a hub for food lovers, from the wide variety of fresh ingredients to the expanse of exciting street food. This new concept will only enhance the current offer and will be a fantastic new addition to the market.”
Three more market venues are on the cards following The Owl, including two units in the market hall and another, secret location on Fish & Game Row. These will be announced in due course.