Pierre Martin, Independent Restaurateur of the Year at the 1986 Catey Awards and the man credited with changing the face of serving fish in London's restaurants, has died in France at the age of 75.
At the height of his success in the 1970s and 1980s, Martin operated five restaurants in London: La Crosiette, Le Suquet, L'Olivier, Lou Pescadou and Quai St Pierre
As well as becoming one of the first restaurateur to serve platters of fruits de mer and a wide selection of simply prepared, fresh seafood and fish , he was also well-known as a bon viveur who ran his restaurants with a great generosity of spirit and shared the profits of his business with each of his managers.
Born in Cannes in 1939, Martin was steeped in the restaurant business, with five generations of his family working in hospitality. He started out as at 13 years of age in a Deauville restaurant, before work took him to Cannes, Madrid and the Dorchester hotel in London, before returning to France for a 12-year stint as barman and waiter at Le Fouquet's on the Champs Elysee in Paris.
Keen to start up his own restaurant, he headed to London, as he knew his savings would go further there than in Paris. He spotted a gap in the market for a well-run restaurant focusing on fish and crustacean, and launched La Croisette in 1974.
Martin bought a refrigerated van and set about establishing a niche by directly importing fish from Rungis Market in Paris and Boulogne two or three times a week.
Le Suquet opened two years later in 1976, followed by Quai St Pierre in 1981, L'Olivier - Martin's only meat restaurant (1983), Lou Pescadou (1985) and later La Carmargue.
For Martin, the quality and freshness of the produce was paramount to his restaurants' success. "What you need in a fish restaurant is to be able to buy your fish on a Tuesday and sell it that day" he once said. "If you sell it on Friday, you're in trouble."
Richard Shepherd, former chef-proprietor of Langan's Brasserie, said he was distraught at the loss of one of his dearest friends, who he visited only a week ago at the home Martin had retired to in Cotignac, Provence.
"Pierre was the man who brought seafood to London. At first I told him that he must be mad with all the risks involved with shellfish. Leaving after the service, he travelled to France overnight to collect the produce, returning first thing in the morning. He broke the barriers and opened the doors to other suppliers. His passing is the end of an era."
Brian Turner, who previously ran his own restaurant, Turner's, nearby Le Suquet in Knightsbridge, described Martin as "a genial host who regarded it as paramount to look after his product, clients and staff.
"He was a true restaurateur who was a truly influential figure on the London restaurant scene."
Martin's funeral will take place on Friday in Cotignac.