Coming to Sydney - a boutique hotel from the master

A new class ... Lok Lik Peng is bringing a fresh alternative to six-star casino hotels to Sydney.
A new class ... Lok Lik Peng is bringing a fresh alternative to six-star casino hotels to Sydney. Photo: Supplied

IT HARDLY packs the six-star power, or the brouhaha, of James Packer's proposed Barangaroo behemoth. But, in a sense the new, considerably more modest, establishment planned for Sydney by the Singaporean lawyer turned hotel design guru, Loh Lik Peng, could be every bit as stellar.

The world is full of affluent travellers who would consider an ostentatious six-star casino hotel their last resort in accommodation, preferring the sort of small, cool and gaming-free lodgings for which Mr Loh has become internationally renowned.

Sydney is noticeably short of marketable cool in hotels. Now Unlisted Collection will develop a 60-room property on the site of the old Clare Hotel at the $2 billion Central Park residential, retail and commercial development on Broadway.

It conspicuously lacks the quantity of hip-design, or boutique-style, hotels - except for the likes of the new QT Sydney, in the refurbished Gowings building, and the fairly long-established Establishment in the CBD - that can be found in other major international cities.

"QT Sydney and Establishment have made a very positive impact," he says. "I think we will also make a positive impact doing something different but cutting edge. … Staying in the Shangri-La is great but it's also great to have other options and I feel the diversity of choice makes it more exciting."

A pioneer of the chic and eccentric design hotel in Asia, Mr Loh's first ground-breaking property, Hotel 1929 in Chinatown in Singapore, more or less began the movement in Asia, even pre-empting Hong Kong. For Mr Loh's breed of international traveller, star ratings matter much less than the ingenuity and individuality of the design of the hotel.

He was attracted to the "grittiness" of the laneway location of the new Sydney hotel, on the corner of Kensington Street and Broadway, and site of the hotel inside the former Carlton and United Brewery's administration building.

His Wanderlust hotel, in the Little India district of Singapore, has a series of rooms individually decorated in arresting, potentially headache-inducing Pantone colours. At his New Majestic Hotel in Singapore's Chinatown, four-poster beds, embedded with a TV at one end, float suspended from the ceiling surrounded by edgy pop art.

The new Sydney hotel is more likely to reflect his somewhat more sober, adult establishments such as the WaterHouse in Shanghai and the Town Hall Hotel in London. Profits, he says, are not his chief motive in developing his hotels.

"I do them because I am passionate about doing these types of projects," he says. "They are fun and fulfilling and ultimately I believe that the rewards will be there if we do it right."

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