Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Not all location, location, location

Not all location, location, location

Not all location, location, location

Sports and music enthusiast Derek Wheatcroft was taking a gamble when he opened his restaurant, bar and hotel away from the tourist hustle and bustle – a bet that paid off

The hardwood chairs and granite bar complement the open, bright dining area.

The soon-to-be-completed mezzanine.

When Derek Wheatcroft decided on the location of his venture, people told him that he was mad and that it wouldn't work. But he took the gamble - and it paid off.

For Wheatcroft, location is important, but not the linchpin of a business. He believes what the venue has to offer is the determining factor for its success. His experience, determination and business acumen can be seen in the fulfillment of his goals in his latest enterprise, The Winking Frog hotel, restaurant and bar.

"I didn't want a hole-in-the-wall bar," Wheatcroft said. "Nor did I particularly want to be on the riverside."

He wanted a venue where people decided to go, not somewhere people went when the place next door was full.

And music and sport were important components in his plans.

"I wanted to do live music, and everybody likes live music."

Wheatcroft said he wanted a sports bar, restaurant and music venue, and intended to open a double-fronted space. After looking at a number of options, he found his current venue on Sothearos Boulevard.

"It was a real mess when I first saw it," Wheatcroft said, "but I could see that it had real potential".

He had the option to take on the 30 rooms above, which was not part of his original plan, but he took the plunge.

However, his main focus was on the ground-floor area which was suffocated by small, dingy rooms.

"I took the rooms out," Wheatcroft said. "I wanted an open area with enough room for music, a pool table and ample seating without it being crowded."

He achieved this with considerable aplomb, and the area is spacious enough for people to dine and enjoy the music without feeling  they are in the way of others.

Your host, Derek Wheatcroft.

For the space to feel more open, Wheatcroft felt it needed to be light, and the glass frontage with stained timber frames lets in plenty of natural light, linking the outside seating area with the inside space.

There is no wicker furniture in the clean, streamlined interior.

"It gets dirty, tatty and looks old quickly," he said.

This is why he chose stainless steel, hardwood and granite as his main focal points. "It looks good, the termites don't eat it and, most importantly, it is easy to keep clean."

Cleanliness is an intrinsic part of Wheatcroft's business ethic.

"People want things to be clean, and I insist that everything be clean," he said.

When walking in, the bar down one side is prominent, but it makes the open space more apparent with its clean lines and simple layout.

This area is further enhanced by the simple colours.

The cream on the walls give a sweeping feel, complementing the off-white tone of the floor, the stainless and marble accentuating the cleanliness that is so important to Wheatcroft, and the soft furnishings in aspects of charcoal and dark grey that don't command one's attention, leaving people free to concentrate on other things.

"I like the simple colours," said Wheatcroft, "the blacks and whites are easy on the eye".

The lighting, too, has been kept simple with small spots providing the bulk of the illumination and adding splashes of colour here and there.

The other splashes of colour come from Derek's collection of sports jerseys which add to the sports bar feel.

People want things to be clean, and I insist that everything be clean.

With music a priority, Wheatcroft had a small, unobtrusive stage built in the corner which can be seen from any angle, including the mezzanine.

He is passionate about music and wants to bring something new to the scene in Cambodia. On May 24 he is holding a ‘Northern Soul' party.

The front of The Winking Frog hotel on Sothearos Boulevard.

"It should be a good bash," he said.  "It'll be the first of its kind in Cambodia, with free CDs, drinks promotions and T-shirts for anybody who comes along with a Vespa. I'm looking forward to it."

Wheatcroft is currently re-styling the mezzanine to give another another aspect to The Winking Frog. As a sports bar, it gets very busy during big sporting events.

"I regularly hold special evenings on big sporting events - football matches, the Ashes, and so on," Wheatcroft said. Sometimes though, less popular sporting events come up. "If only a few people come in and they want to watch a particular event, they might feel more comfortable watching it together, so the mezzanine is the perfect solution."

"People can also use the area for a more relaxed drink," he said.

The Winking Frog also caters for large and small private functions.

Derek Wheatcroft's ‘gamble' has certainly paid off and his first six months have been successful.

Aside from the mezzanine, he has a few more ideas for change.

"We're open 24 hours, but the kitchen isn't," he said.

"I want to change this and have a take-away menu with home delivery; good food, 24 hours a day."

A few more televisions are in the pipeline and he's also going to sort out the wall seating,

"They've gone a bit soft, so I'll have to give them a lift, get them re-upholstered."

Must be all those people sitting on them.

WORDS AND PICTURES BY JONATHAN ALLISON

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