Although many stalls are shut, Leeds’ Kirkgate Market is still open for essentials such as fruit and veg, bread, meat, cheese and a range of tinned and packet food. Cath Kane and Thomas Chalk do their weekly shop.

Leeds Kirkgate Market is, for us, one of the most important places in the City Centre. Until home working became the new normal, we both worked a few minutes’ walk away and regularly visited for lunch and shopping.

There are many Leeds food places we miss at the moment, but perhaps above all it is OWT that we are saddest to not be able to visit, with their regularly-changing menus cooked with ingredients bought within the market. Still, there are some traders open, and we only live a mile away from the market, which is a good distance to combine some daily exercise with our weekly shop.

Fruit and veg stalls are open, both outdoors and in, and fat spears of British asparagus began appearing a couple of weeks ago, as welcome a season as the Yorkshire forced rhubarb that was just ending as lockdown began. For bread and pastries, there’s Bluebird bakery and Karpaty Polish bakery. The Nut Shop provide nuts (obviously!), dried fruit, herbs and spices, and Spice Corner has fresh and dried spices, tins and sauces, and an array of fresh veg just crying out to be made into a curry feast. Khao Gaeng Thai and Hot Bites are open for takeaway if your craving for a bit of spice just can’t wait for you to get home and cook. 

Although the market is nowhere near its usual bustling self, it is still an enjoyable trip that brings some feeling of normality to life. The traders that are open are as friendly and chatty as ever. There is a camaraderie in respecting social distancing and doing those little two-metres-apart tangoes around each other as you pass fellow shoppers. There are hand sanitisers and antibacterial wipes available to help everyone do their bit.

It’s impossible to not feel saddened by the mostly deserted ranks of canopies in the outdoor market, the upturned benches in the food court, and the relative quietness of the place – but true to form, Malcolm Michaels has the singing butcher to help bring some tuneful cheer (even as a vegetarian, Thomas has to stop and smile at this!).

Kanassa Colombian Street Food aren’t open but on Fridays, they are distributing Real Junk Food Project food parcels to key workers, as if their delicious street food wasn’t already reason enough to want to take your business there as soon as they reopen. 

Thank you NHS and all key workers

Leeds Kirkgate Market is open Monday to Saturday, 7.30am to 3pm. Keep an eye on their facebook and twitter for further announcements on openings. Some of the traders who aren’t open in the market are doing business online, or have a contact number displayed on their stall. Good luck to all the stallholders, both those who are open and those who are having to stay closed.

Photographs by Cath Kane.

Thomas Chalk

Thomas moved to Leeds in 2001 after a few years in Bristol and a childhood in Hull. He cooks (and eats) a lot, and intermittently blogs about it at https://toomanycookingblogs.wordpress.com/

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