OWT is a new restaurant in Kirkgate Market inspired by local produce and their neighbours in the market. Naomi Baguley talks to chef and co-owner Esther Miglio ahead of OWT’s
As 2018 draws to a close, a year that has generally been regarded as a bin on fire has little to offer in the way of good news. One thing that has grown in prominence this year, however, has been the rising awareness of sustainable living in the UK. Amidst political, economic, and social uncertainty, people have been choosing to re-examine the ways they consume fashion, technology, and even food: the way that we buy our meals and eat them can shape our local communities and the wider world for the better.
Leeds’ local food movement has been gaining traction over the past couple of years, with restaurants such as Eat Your Greens highlighting their use of local and organic vegetables. OWT, the newest restaurant addition to Kirkgate Market, takes the movement one step further by sourcing all of their produce only from within the market itself. “The main idea is to keep the money within the market,” Esther Miglio tells me in the midst of setting up OWT’s new kitchen. “We can get the most amazing fresh fruit and vegetables - as well as meat and fish - from all of our neighbours in the market’.
Esther and her partner James Simpson, both veterans of the Leeds Junk Food Project, created OWT a way to continue bringing local, seasonal and sustainable food to the people of Leeds. They began OWT’s journey with two launch events - at Hyde Park Book Club and The Brunswick - offering up a delicious menu for vegans, veggies, and carnivores alike. Their permanent stall will be open in Kirkgate Market from the end of November.
The restaurant will be offering up a changing weekly menu - one that is inspired by and reliant upon the other traders within the market. The menus will be inspired directly by the fresh produce offered by OWT’s neighbouring traders; for example, the debut menu was created as a result of a conversation between Esther and an organic butcher: “We got talking to Nigel, who’s an amazing butcher, and he mentioned the beef shin that he had in.” 12-hour slow-cooked beef was added to the menu, and a collaborative relationship was created.
The placement within Kirkgate Market not only means OWT have access to a huge range of amazing independent traders, but also means that shoppers and workers in the city centre can afford to come and enjoy a local lunch; “In France, we have the tradition of stopping work from 12 to half 1 for lunch, and all the shops close so everybody can go to a cantine, where you can easily get a three-course meal for under a tenner,” Esther tells me. OWT is a restaurant that will reflect this French sensibility, not only in affordability, but also in attitude. It was created as a place where people can see exactly where their food comes from, and enjoy the benefits of a close community of traders and chefs.
What came is apparent in OWT’s ethos, as well as its food, is an attitude of unpretentious care and skilled attention to flavour.