Oli Martin to open new 263 restaurant in Preston

Mark O'Rourke and Oli Martin outside 263
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Restaurant entrepreneur Mark O’Rourke, who earlier this year announced £2m growth plans for his Fino Tapas restaurants, is now looking forward to the relaunch of his Preston city centre restaurant 263, later this month.

This follows having delivered a masterstroke with the appointment of talented chef, Oli Martin as his new executive chef.

Oli Martin is one of Lancashire’s most innovative chefs, a BBC Masterchef: The Professionals finalist in 2018 and winner of BBC Masterchef The Professionals: A Festive Knockout in 2020, and was head chef of Hipping Hall’s 4 AA Rosette restaurant until October this year.

But after eight years at Hipping Hall and following several lockdowns during the pandemic Oli, in his own words, wanted to “refresh myself and my style and I knew that I needed a brand new start to be able to do this.”

Step in Mark O’Rourke, who was looking for an experienced and inspirational new chef. His fine dining restaurant 263, named in honour of his son’s birth date and located in Preston’s chic Winckley Square Hotel, has now been completely redesigned by Oli.

The 32-cover restaurant has new décor, tables, seating, bar and artwork. The kitchen has also received a major bespoke transformation.

“Oli did take a little persuading to accept,” said Mark “He had already started to set up Foray Catering, but we both instantly got along and having discussed my vision for 263 and, finding we shared very similar ideas, he agreed to take on the role of executive chef.”

Oli said: “I wanted to take a step back from being on the stoves and the general running of the kitchen, to allow myself more time to be able to put my focus on the dishes, on the style of the service and the offering. Sometimes you need to step away from things to really progress.

“Mark and I had a few discussions and then once I’d visited 263, I knew it was somewhere with bags of potential and a place I could really see myself at home and making a difference.

“We both have high hopes for creating a unique dining experience and bringing something new to Preston town centre – an area that is currently thriving with lots of new additions to its great dining and drinking scene. Lancashire, more widely, is a genuine gourmet destination and Preston is for many, the gateway into the county.”

He added: “I think 263 is just the beginning for myself and Mark, he’s a very driven and ambitious person who is always thinking about what’s new. We’re very much alike in that sense.”

Head chef in Oli’s new kitchen is the talented Rikki Hughes. Rikki also has an impressive background, working with some of the best chefs in the UK, and joins 263 from Tom Kerridge’s 2 Michelin Star restaurant, The Hand and Flowers.

Lancashire beetroot rose

In the evenings 263 will serve a single tasting menu, focused on the best available seasonal produce, with Oli’s love of heritage and foraged ingredients evidenced throughout.

Expect a significant helping, too, of Lancashire-inspired dishes including his beautifully delicate Lancashire beetroot rose, and perhaps even a Butter Pie – obviously, with a signature Oli Martin twist.

Mark said: “I’m so excited to finally announce this rebirth of 263.

“Oli is definitely the man for the job, his style of cooking and determination to produce a great quality product is the thing that will make 263 a true success.

“I firmly believe that Oli will create a menu and a restaurant that people will talk about in the same breath as the very best restaurants in Lancashire and the rest of the UK.”

263 will open Friday and Saturday from November 26, until Christmas week.