A Masterchef winner from Lancashire has been appointed the new executive chef at a fine dining restaurant as it prepares to relaunch next month.

Restaurant entrepreneur Mark O’Rourke, who earlier this year announced £2million growth plans for his Fino Tapas restaurants, is now looking forward to the relaunch of his Preston city centre restaurant 263, having secured the appointment of Oli Martin as his executive chef.

Mr Martin is widely accepted as 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, he was Head Chef at Hipping Hall’s 4 AA Rosette restaurant until October this year.

But after eight years at the Carnforth hotel, Mr Martin, from Lytham decided, in his own words, that he wanted to “refresh myself and my style and I knew that I needed a brand-new start to be able to do this.”

Mr O’Rourke, who, as well as Fino Tapas, also boasts Preston's newly opened Mexican eatery La Neta, and the city's Winckley Street Ale House in his portfolio, approached Mr Martin with an offer to redesign 263, and after a little persuasion was able to bring the Masterchef winner on board.

Lancashire Telegraph: Oli Martin Oli Martin

Mr O'Rourke said: "Oli did take a little persuading to accept.

“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.”

Restaurant 263, named in honour of Mr O'Rourke's son’s birth date and located in Preston’s chic Winckley Square Hotel, has now been completely redesigned by Mr Martin, with the 32-cover restaurant boasting new décor, tables, seating, bar and artwork.

The kitchen has also received a major bespoke transformation.

Speaking about his new role, Mr Martin, who spent a year at Northcote, working under Nigel Howarth and Lisa Allen, then three years in the Lake District at Gilpin Lodge, 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.

“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.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Oli Martin's Lancashire beetroot roseOli Martin's Lancashire beetroot rose

Head Chef in Mr Martin's new kitchen is Rikki Hughes, who has an impressive background, working with some of the best chefs in the UK, and joins 263 from Tom Kerridge’s two-Michelin Star restaurant, The Hand and Flowers.

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

There will also be a significant helping of Lancashire-inspired dishes including Mr Martin's beautifully delicate Lancashire beetroot rose, and perhaps even a Butter Pie.

Mr O'Rourke added: “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. 

For opening times and bookings visit 263preston.co.uk

Opening times for 2022 to follow soon.