Chester chef Martin Taylor first fell in love with cooking after family summer holidays in France during his teenage years.
“My parents had friends in France who owned a restaurant and, from the age of 15 every summer holidays, I worked in the kitchen and learnt how to cook,” explains Martin. “I loved it.”
He left school to go to catering college and became a chef until, in his thirties, he gave it up to work in print management to try and get a better work/life balance around his family. Then covid hit.
“I’d been the last to join the company I was working for, so I was one of the first to be let go. I applied for hundreds of jobs but couldn’t even get an interview,” he said. “We were in the middle of the pandemic and the circumstances were far from normal.
“Cooking and cheffing has never felt like work to me so I decided to set up my own company. I wanted to create somewhere that I’d love to eat. I took a stall in the old Chester Market with the plan to move across to the new market hall as soon as it was ready. Which I did 12 months ago.
“I’ve surfed all over the world – from Britain to Spain, Bali to France – and what I love after a day in the sea is an ice-cold beer and a plate of fresh seafood. It’s the best. Back in the day, every town across Britain would have its own great seafood place but now you don’t see so many places. Even in places like Newquay, you’re more likely to find a rib shack, a burger joint or a pie shop than a fish restaurant.
“There are lots of great cookery books and seafood chefs on television, but I thought there was a gap in the market in Chester for a place serving amazing seafood.
“At the Sandbar Seafood Shack, our philosophy is not to do fish and chips as you need specialist fryers and we don’t have the electrical power for that in the market – and you can get them in lots of pubs.
“Instead, we serve the freshest and most exciting coastal seafood – everything from steaming bowls of fragrant mussels and bright fish curries to fresh oysters shucked to order, lobster rolls, thick and creamy clam chowders and rich lobster bisque.
“I’m teaching some of the lads in the kitchen how to make a proper gurnard bouillabaisse, a wonderful fish soup, that I learnt to make in France when I was a kid.
“Our fish comes in super fresh every day and as local as we can source it to keep our carbon footprint down. We have Morecambe Bay mussels, lobsters arriving 80 miles away from Anglesey and oysters from the Menai Straits. We sell over 200 of them every weekend. I like being able to tell our customers exactly where their seafood is from.
“Every morning, I chat with the team about what we’ve got coming in and what we want to make. We create a number of specials and when we sell out, they’re gone. What goes up on our blackboard tomorrow is swimming in the sea today. It’s exciting.
“The Market has been a brilliant place to start the business and to build a customer base. My next plan is to open a restaurant in Chester over the next 12 months. We’ll focus on seafood but will also offer meat and vegetarian dishes.
“I’m also looking for an apprentice to join the team and it’s a brilliant role because they’ll learn lots with us, but they will also spend time with my butcher, pastry and restaurant contacts to broaden their skills.
“We’ve got a very loyal following here and lots of our customers check us out daily on Instagram so they know what our specials are and can pop in before they sell out. Some even text me in advance to reserve their lobster rolls, which we pile high in a butter roasted bread roll – it’s the pinnacle of affordable luxury and exemplifies the philosophy of the Sandbar. The best produce, made perfectly, and for everyone.”
- The Sandbar Seafood Shack is offering 10% off to all Inspire Cheshire readers. Quote ‘Inspire Cheshire’ when you place your order.
- Chester Market was named best new market in Britain at the National Association of British Market Authorities. It’s open until 10pm every day except Monday and closes at 9pm on Sunday.
- Check them out on Instagram @the_sandbar_seafood_shack for their daily menu.