Sand, sea and sourdough

Craig's By The Sea, Marske By The Sea.26th May 2022Michelle Maddison Photography07798 724746mi

Craigs has become a popular spot in the seaside town - Credit: Michelle Maddison Photography

Kathryn Armstrong visits a family-run bakery business thriving in a seaside town 

You have to be an early riser in every sense of the word to run a bakery that promises just-out-of-the oven sourdough and croissants every morning with a fine cup of coffee. 

Craig's By The Sea at Marske By The Sea.26th May 2022Michelle Maddison Photography07798 724746

Craigs is built on speciality patisserie - Credit: Michelle Maddison Photography

Chris Laing and his team are on breakfast duty from 6.30am at Craigs By The Sea in the coastal town of Marske-by-the-Sea on the most northerly part of the Yorkshire coast. The café, with its outside tables and open frontage, is the perfect spot to sit awhile and take in the sea air.  

It is one of the latest hotspots on the foodies’ radar on this part of the coast. In one direction there’s Redcar, known mostly for lemon top ice creams and fish and chips. In the opposite direction is Saltburn with its artisan food markets, indie cocktail bars and  posh crab brioche served up at the increasingly famous Seaview restaurant.  

Craig's By The Sea, Marske.Pictured Chris and Ruth with daughter Maisie's enjoy a walk on the beach

Chris and Ruth with daughter Maisie's enjoy a walk on the beach - Credit: Michelle Maddison Photography

Craigs is close to the beach at Marske - Credit: Michelle Maddison Photography

In the middle is lesser-known Markse with, until now, few noteworthy eating spots aside from traditional pubs. 

Craig's By The Sea at Marske By The Sea.26th May 2022Michelle Maddison Photography07798 724746

Pastries made with love by the family team - Credit: Michelle Maddison Photography

The beach isn’t far from Craigs so it’s an obvious point for sustenance before, after or during a blustery or blissful hike on the beach or cliffs. 

The Laing family found themselves in Markse not quite by accident but due to a sad turn of events. 

Chris and Ruth were living in Scotland, working in the food industry. Chris’s mum Susan moved to the area four years ago to take up a role as Dean of the Business School at Teesside University with her husband, Aidan Craig.   

Sadly, after a diagnosis of cancer Aidan died soon after the move – but his legacy is in the name of the café says Chris. 

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‘He was a huge influence on us – he had been an accountant but was also involved with many food businesses and loved to pass on his knowledge.’ 

Following Aidan’s death, Chris and Ruth with new baby, Oscar, found themselves visiting his mum in Markse regularly – and a shopping trip for new carpet proved a turning point in all their lives. 

The carpet shop on the busy high street was closing and so Chris and Ruth made the bold decision to up sticks from Scotland and make a new life in Marske. Craigs By The Sea was born.  

‘My mum was picking out carpet and we found that the shop was up for rent’, says Chris. 

‘It snowballed very quickly from there and we decided to name it Craigs because Aidan taught us so much. We just jumped in. We took on the lease and started very small. 

Craig's By The Sea at Marske By The Sea.
26th May 2022
Michelle Maddison Photography
07798 724746

The airy cafe has a bright and fresh feel - Credit: Michelle Maddison Photography

‘I had worked at a bakery for a year after leaving school before going to university – now everything is based around that on the menu. The patisserie side was always going to be the focus but the bread side we didn’t set out to do initially – but we couldn’t find anyone doing bread to the quality we wanted. 

‘We do absolutely everything – from our bread, patisserie, fermentation for kombucha and kimchi’, he says. 

The aim is also to support local food suppliers such as fish from boats at Redcar, meat from Hutchinson Hobbs farm shop in Yarm, Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil, Acorn Dairy organic produce, coffee from Routon Coffee Roasters in North Yorkshire and fruit and veg from the grocer just up the road.   

Craig's By The Sea at Marske By The Sea.26th May 2022Michelle Maddison Photography07798 724746

Pastries made with love by the family team - Credit: Michelle Maddison Photography

The tempting breakfast menu includes a skillet breakfast with Hutchison and Hobbs dry cured smoked bacon, hog roast sausage, Doreen’s black pudding, roast tomato, poached egg and sourdough or how about baked eggs cooked in a spiced tomato and pepper sauce, topped with yogurt, flaked almonds, coriander served with sourdough?

Craig's By The Sea at Marske By The Sea.
26th May 2022
Michelle Maddison Photography
07798 724746

Plates are pretty as a picture - Credit: Michelle Maddison Photography

The lunch menu includes slow roasted lamb, harrisa, black garlic mayo, fermented chilli sauce, pickled chillies on sourdough flatbread or tamari- marinated minute steak, house pickles, Japanese mustard on brioche and beansprout side salad. 

Tasty scones - Credit: Michelle Maddison Photography

Tempting and eye-catching cakes are definitely an attraction too with beautiful patisseries on display – you can buy an indulgent afternoon tea or large cakes for special occasions – including a frangipane tart, malted banana and raspberry, matcha and lemon or the ultimate pure chocolate cake. The experienced chef team  has also started up a weekend supper club a couple of times a month with a seven-course or three-course tasting menu. This menu plays on the bakery skills throughout says Chris. ‘as a canape we have a choux bun filled with cauliflower and there’s a sable biscuit with ginger and a chicken liver parfait. 

‘I like tartare and you don’t see it on menus so much – so there’s a lamb tartare with wild garlic - foraged from Valley Gardens in Saltburn. A main course of adobo pork, wild garlic and tamari potato then a dessert of dark chocolate and tahini. It’s very casual with one sitting and good music - we don’t want formality, we want people chatting – we want it to be nice’. he laughs. 

‘'We are trying to champion local’, says Chris, ‘and finding more and people looking for that and wanting to support. 

‘The staycation market is on the up since Covid. You see it – when we picked this as a location people  were saying, ‘really, Marske, why not Saltburn? ‘But we were here for my Mum and this was the place we wanted to be – and at the time there was really only two other cafes.  

‘We had to fight our corner in terms of prices and what we do – I am quite stubborn and we didn’t know if it was deluded but we decided to stick to our guns.   

‘We knew what we were capable of and built it slowly with a limited menu with just the bread and patisserie. Now people are coming from a distance – foodies will travel.’ 

For Ruth and Chris, who now also have a little girl, Maisie, building the business was always going to be about a good life balance. Ruth is now in the bakery on Fridays creating all the Viennoiserie and works some Saturday nights.  

‘Others working for us have young children and when we opened, we wanted to be the employers that we wanted to have’, says Chris.  

Now the family is embedded in the community of the friendly seaside town. ‘It’s so nice, my son knows everyone and wanders around saying hello,’ says Chris.  

‘There was a culture for so long that you had make sacrifices, especially if you wanted to work at a higher end but you can have a life outside of work and we don’t expect people to take work home with them. There is a level of expectation from the outset so assumptions aren’t made and people know where they stand, what the job is and they crack on.  

In terms of chefs that Chris and Ruth admire, ‘It’s always about flavour for us – me and Ruth always gravitate to L’enclume (Simon Rogan’s three-Michelin starred restaurant in the Lakes) - we went for our honeymoon and if we ever get time off, we go over there – flavour and the level of refinement is just second to none.  

‘With the kids we naturally gravitate to Robinsons in York (on ‘Bishopthorpe Road). Mondays are the day we can go as a family and my son is train obsessed so we go to York!’ 

Craig’s By The Sea is now open 9-4 Monday to Saturday and 9-3 Sundays with tasting menus fortnightly on Saturdays. For details see the website