The Guardian calls Leeds 'the UK's best city hiding in plain sight'

The Owl in Kirkgate Market
The Owl in Kirkgate Market
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A Guardian restaurant critic has called Leeds 'the best city in the UK - hiding in plain sight'.

Food writer Grace Dent visited Kirkgate Market to review The Owl, the first pub to open inside the Victorian market hall for 150 years.

Grace Dent reviewed The Owl for The Guardian

Grace Dent reviewed The Owl for The Guardian

Dent was hugely impressed by the variety of the market - which she describes as 'tastefully re-loved and gloriously preserved' while recognising that beyond Leeds it remains a low-key, undiscovered gem.

Sunday Times food critic called Leeds restaurant owners 'snowflakes' in row over broken heating
She credits the market community and the site owners with their commitment to keeping the covered hall open and vibrant in an age of online shopping.

She name-checks street food traders including Manjit's Kitchen and Mr Mackerel before moving onto 44-seater British restaurant, taproom and oyster bar The Owl, which is run by chefs Liz Cottam and Mark Owens, who also own Home.

Dent had watched videos of Masterchef contestant Cottam setting out her vision for The Owl, which serves dishes made with ingredients sourced from the nearby stalls on Butcher's Row and Fish & Game Row - including fresh Lindisfarne oysters, crab, boar and pheasant - with wine or beer. Business partner Owens is the former head chef at The Box Tree in Ilkley, which formerly held a Michelin star.

She was hugely impressed with the diversity of Kirkgate Market

She was hugely impressed with the diversity of Kirkgate Market

Liz Cottam reveals vision for Kirkgate Market venues as The Owl opens
One stallholder told Cottam she was 'bloody mad' to think of the concept and design a menu including fish pie, rabbit suet pudding, game wellington and nut loaf that is marketed as casual fine dining.

Dent managed to find a table 'by sheer fluke' as The Owl is often fully booked at weekends. The business opens at 8.30am, but closes at 5.30pm on weekdays, choosing to focus on breakfast and lunchtime trade while the stalls are open, with later opening on weekends. She described the service as 'faultless', and enjoyed mussels, venison-filled steamed dumplings and lemon drizzle pudding.

Cottam and Owens have partnered with Leeds brewery Northern Monk for the venture, and sell an exclusive Northern Monk beer called Wisdom.

They also hope to open three more venues inside Kirkgate Market within the next year.

The Owl is a gastropub, taproom and oyster bar that serves produce sourced from nearby market stalls

The Owl is a gastropub, taproom and oyster bar that serves produce sourced from nearby market stalls

Click here to read Grace Dent's review of The Owl for The Guardian
Dent enjoyed a far more fulfilling trip to Leeds than Sunday Times food critic Marina O'Loughlin did back in February. O'Loughlin had travelled by train from London to review The Swine That Dines on North Street, but called owners Stuart and Jo Myers 'snowflakes' when she arrived on a cold day to find the restaurant closed due to a problem with the heating. She claimed to have reserved a table, although The Swine denied she had booked in advance.

O'Loughlin then moved onto chef Matt Healy's Holbeck restaurant The Foundry x, but was unimpressed with the food. Healy later responded to say he was taking her feedback on board.

She finally ended up going to Ilkley and eating at Host, which became the subject of her review.