The artist Damien Hirst removed the pill bottles, medical packages and surgical appliances that adorned the Pharmacy restaurant yesterday as the venture closed.

The restaurant in Notting Hill, west London, appears to have fallen victim to a tough year in the capital's restaurant trade and could no longer sustain the buzz of interest that surrounded its star- studded opening five years ago.

The involvement of Hirst as designer and Matthew Freud, the public relations guru who later married Rupert Murdoch's daughter, Elisabeth, ensured Pharmacy received a blaze of publicity at its opening.

A row with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society over the restaurant's name - amid allegations that people might confuse it with a real pharmacy - maintained its place in the public eye for some time.

But early problems surfaced when the venture was merged with another restaurant chain to form the Hartford Group, which was understood yesterday to be in negotiations over what will happen next. Another restaurant on the site is thought unlikely, although a Hartford Group spokesman refused to comment.

Hirst told the London Evening Standard: "It's a very sad day for everyone who has worked so hard to try and make the restaurant a success."

The chef Marco Pierre White was in charge of the food when it opened and the venue received warm reviews. The restaurant critic Fay Maschler said it was "a prescription for a very nice time".

Celebrities including Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss were among noted visitors. But plans to form a chain of the brand were abandoned within a couple of years of the launch.

Comments