Old World Charm, New World Glamour
Former lawyer, come ‘accidental’ hotelier and restaurateur, Loh Lik Peng has blazed the trail in the world of hospitality. This boutique hotel and restaurant pioneer started his first property venture back in 2000. Now, he has seven hotels and 20 restaurants across Singapore, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Sydney – all under his company title: Unlisted Collection.
Formerly a lawyer, Peng’s first steps into the world of hospitality stemmed from a bit of boredom and a strong desire to do something different. And so, he set out to create his own fun and whimsically designed hotels, challenging the classic design hotels that often ‘take themselves too seriously.’
Image Source: Wanderlust Hotel Facebook
Peng’s first hospitality venture, Hotel 1929, sparked a major revamp of the Keong Saik neighbourhood in Chinatown, shedding its sketchy reputation as a red-light district.
It was with this that Peng realised his natural flair for restoring heritage buildings and giving them a new identity and new lease on life. The gutsy move was clear evidence of Peng’s natural eye for unrecognised potential, and his tenacity to see them through.
It comes as no surprise then that Peng’s career took off with such force. His creativity coupled with an intuitive understanding of what gave each place its individual character meant that no two properties were ever at risk of becoming alike.
For example, The Old Clare Hotel in Sydney (launched in 2015) underwent a massive renovation but rather than simply replacing the old with the new, the building’s 200 year old wooden rafters were simply repurposed to accent the main dining hall’s ceiling. Even the headboards of the beds were made from the hotel’s original bar top.
Image Source: The Old Clare Hotel Facebook
Similarly, Wanderlust Hotel (established in 2010) was a school building during its hay day in the 1920s. Here, Peng and his team created an ‘industrial glam’ lobby, displaying a modern mix of Peranakan and French vibes. Straits Chinese motifs also decorated the exterior, while each room displayed a different theme, drawing inspiration from a Pantone colour swatch, outer space, and everything in between.
While all his hotels may be different, Peng claims that many appeal to a similar demographic. More specifically, they appeal to people that desire to know the story behind where they are staying.
Image Source: Cocotte Facebook
In the culinary world, Peng is a strong believer that food is a critical element in creating a lifestyle space. Thus, he is also a highly successful restaurateur, with famous ventures including Burnt Ends (#70 on the World’s Best Restaurant List), Esquina, Cocotte, Salted and Hung, Pollen, and Cheek by Jowl to name a few… and that’s just in Singapore!
As an entrepreneur, Loh Lik Peng has rewritten the rulebook when it comes to unique customer experiences. And it’s clearly working, as travellers continue to come back for more.
To draw more inspiration from Peng’s vision for the future of heritage-based hospitality, catch him at Tern’s event on August 27th in Novotel on Clarke Quay.