The Owl Leeds: Meet chef patron Mark Owens as Kirkgate Market's first ever pub prepares for new home

Kirkgate Market's first pub is on the move, with a new home set to be announced this year.

By Abbey Maclure
Sunday, 16th January 2022, 11:45 am

Founded by Mark Owens and Liz Cottam in November 2019, the masterminds behind Michelin-recommended HOME, The Owl celebrates the best of Yorkshire produce, wine and beer.

After lockdown was enforced just months after opening, the pub quickly pivoted to launch delivery boxes as demand for restaurant-quality food at home went through the roof.

Complete with Mark's tips on how to plate the food, The Owl @ Home boxes were a flying success - and despite the pressures of the pandemic, Mark said the pub has emerged stronger with a concrete plan of where to take the business.

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Founded by Mark Owens (pictured) and Liz Cottam in November 2019, The Owl celebrates the best of Yorkshire produce, wine and beer (Photo: James Hardisty)

"The boxes opened us up to a new market of people who hadn’t been to us before," the chef patron told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"It was a necessity to stay alive, but it had the great benefit of showing people what we could do.

“And because we had to condense down the space at The Owl, we could focus more on doing the food we wanted to and it was less about volume.

“If we hadn’t had the pandemic we would have kept going as we were, because when you’re in the middle of the storm there’s no time to think or change.”

Mark, 39, grew up in Maidstone, Kent, where he started cooking pies and baking flapjacks with his gran when his parents were out at work (Photo: James Hardisty)

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Mark grew up in Maidstone, Kent, where he started cooking pies and baking flapjacks with his gran when his parents were out at work.

It inspired a dream of becoming a chef and after working in London and helping to open a restaurant hotel in Cyprus, he made the move to Yorkshire where he worked his way up the kitchen at The Star Inn at Harome.

After being appointed as head chef at Ilkley's The Box Tree - where he won and retained a Michelin star - Mark launched HOME with Liz in 2017, reimagining British favourites with set tasting menus.

The 39-year-old said: “Being able to open a restaurant on our own and make it a viable business, a cornerstone of Leeds’ dining scene as it is now, is a proud moment.

"Every time we do something, it starts a roll and you keep progressing. You have to set new goals because if you don’t you start to stagnate.”

The Owl was the next venture, with a focus on fish and game sourced from Kirkgate Market and the finest Yorkshire suppliers, served in a relaxed atmosphere.

“We wanted to open The Owl to do the same thing we’re doing at HOME, but in a different format from the tasting menu," Mark said.

"The added bonus was getting people back into the market, selling the beautiful building that people haven’t been going to as much as they should."

The Owl will soon move across to a residency in Kirkgate while Mark and the team busily prepare its new home, which will be announced later this year.

Mark added: “I like the challenge of the job, trying to make our food and service as good as it can be everyday - and working with people who feel the same way.

“We try to deliver to every person that walks through the door something we believe in."

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