Top Belfast restaurant Potted Hen has closed its doors
Only three years ago it was named best restaurant in Northern Ireland - but last night the Potted Hen had shut up shop.
The venue blazed a trail in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, as the first to open in St Anne's Square in 2010.
But last night patrons with bookings were turned away.
Customers found the eatery locked up, a move understood to have been carried out by the letting agent, and security staff said it had been closed since yesterday morning.
The Potted Hen was opened in November 2010 by chef Dermot Regan and his wife Catherine, who had already tasted success with another restaurant, Oregano in Newtownabbey, which is now closed.
In 2012 the restaurant was named the best restaurant in Northern Ireland at the National Restaurant Awards in London, and expanded in size that year to create a private dining area on the second floor. It was credited with helping the Cathedral Quarter become the social hub it is today.
A bomb exploded near it in December 2013, but it opened for business as usual the next day.
Its difficulties began in March 2014 when the company that owned it, Oregano Belfast Limited, of which the Regans were directors, was the subject of a winding-up order.
Liquidators were appointed in May last year, and then in July this year the Regans were declared bankrupt following an insolvency order.
However, the Potted Hen continued to trade until this week.
Restaurant critic Joris Minne said: "The restaurant business is fraught with financial and human resources pressures and is more vulnerable than some other sectors.
"But in the past we have seen big names in the industry rationalise and reinvent themselves, and I sincerely hope that this will be the case again with The Potted Hen."