Leeds MasterChef semi-finalist opens pub “to get our markets back to their former glory.”
By Molly Clayton
The Owl, a new gastropub will be opening inside Leeds Kirkgate market for the first time in its 150 year history.
Owners Liz Cottam, MasterChef 2016 contestant and Mark Owens, who previously retained a Michelin star for Ilkley’s The Box Tree, plan to open the pub this Autumn.
Liz Cottam said: “I’ve always been drawn to opening a pub, but I wanted to do it differently”
The recent gastropub revolution has begun to save pub culture whilst also introducing people to fine dining and a new style of drinking.
The Campaign for Real Ale says that 378 pubs shut down permanently between July and December last year in England, Scotland and Wales, representing more than 14 closures a week.
Kirkgate Market is one of Europe’s largest indoor markets. Since 1857, the Market has been home to some of the most characterful traders in the city, with businesses representing a wide range of fresh food and drink.
The Campaign For Real Ale is an organisation in the UK that promotes and advocates pubs and clubs as social centres and as part of the UK’s cultural heritage.
Katie Wiles, the senior communications manager for CAMRA said: “Pubs are important to our society. We recently did some work with the University of Oxford where people said they feel happier in the area they live if there is a local pub.
“Roughly, around 14 pubs a week close in the UK and since the 1970’s over a quarter of all pubs have closed.
49p in every £4 pint of beer is now beer tax.
“The UK has the highest rate of beer tax which is why so many pubs are struggling to stay open.”
“Gastro pubs seem to be doing really well. The fact that they have unique ideas, smaller spaces and a smaller amount of staff means they are thriving. It always helps if the owner has a name or status and already has experience in the local area.
The Owl will be a 44-seater taproom and dining room. It will also partner with Leeds Brewery Northern Monk who has produced a new beer specifically for the pub. Liz and Mark both previously joined forces in 2017 to open the popular HOME restaurant in the city centre.
It will use produce from the local market with an emphasis on fish and game.
Liz Cottam has always been part of the pub culture in Leeds. She said: “Mum and Dad owned spit-and-sawdust pubs around Leeds in the 1980’s and we’d shop in the market almost everyday. It was very much part of my childhood.
“The market was no frills but good quality. It was almost like an early version of Aldi. But then supermarkets happened, convincing us to buy pretty food in out-of-town stores.
“Thank God, people are now learning more about produce. It’s time to get our markets back to their former glory”
Liz has created a dining room menu as well as a beer-friendly snack menu too.
On offer will also be special beer pairings with the food using the Northern Monk brews.
The Owl is the first of four venues that Liz and Mark plan to open.
Kirkgate Market is one of Leeds’ most popular tourist destinations. A Kirkgate Market shopper said: “Hopefully the pub will bring Kirkgate Market a new audience. I think we need more diverse offerings in the market and this new gastropub is a great idea. Save our local pubs and go as often as you can.”
The gastropub rebellion is being largely held to improve pubs and revive the all important pub culture.