TREEHOUSE is defined by the slogan ‘One with Nature’ and it is clear that every effort has been made to ensure that their impact on the environment is as minimal as possible. Despite being situated right at the heart of the metropolitan area of Hong Kong, the concept of the restaurant is intrinsically tied to nature, from the names of dishes on the menu to the sourcing of sustainable ingredients and packaging.
The menu at TREEHOUSE is plant-based and almost entirely vegan, with the exception of free-range eggs and halloumi in a couple of dishes, both of which can be easily substituted for vegan options. Vegan and plant-based diets help reduce the impact we have on our environment by minimising carbon footprints, conserving water supplies and helping to preserve natural ecosystems and habitats. Additionally, numerous studies suggest that plant-based diets can decrease risk of cancer, keep our hearts healthy and assist in weight loss. TREEHOUSE founder and chef, Christian G. Mongendre, discovered the benefits of following a plant-based diet himself when training as a competitive rower. He found that by limiting his consumption of animal products, he was able to push his limits further and recover from injury more quickly. After returning to his birthplace of Hong Kong, he brought to life his vision of a restaurant which serves healthy, environmentally friendly food which is accessible to everyone. He explains that the menu is ‘accidentally’ vegan as labels can be off-putting for some people. He says, “we need to go beyond labels like climatarian, vegetarian, and flexitarian. Labels create separation and also come with negative connotations. People think that vegan comes paired with very serious activism and people are turned off by that”.
Mongendre sources seasonal, organic ingredients from farms within a 10-hour drive of the restaurant, an impressive feat considering almost 100% the goods in Hong Kong have to be imported. He keeps food waste to a minimum by using as much of the plant as he can, then sending the rest back to farmers to use as compost. The ingredients are kept whole, and they are free from preservatives and artificial sweeteners or additives. When it comes to processing, natural fermentation is about as far as they will go at TREEHOUSE. The restaurant serves a number of naturally fermented items which are good for your gut, such as their probiotic rich kombucha, and easily digestible sourdough flatbreads and burger buns. Mongendre says “in Hong Kong, people are exposed to so much pollution in the air and the water. There is stress just coming out of your apartment. So we need to promote foods that are life-giving, that help your body regenerate and take you to a lesser state of inflammation”.
Dishes at TREEHOUSE are made fresh to order, and you can fill your own flatbread or bowl with grains and salads topped with things like kimchi, charred cauliflower, grilled tempeh, turmeric soft eggs and kelp noodles. If you’re not up for creating your own, there is an exciting choice of flatbreads, burgers, soups and salad bowls. To accompany your dish, there is a delicious array of cold-pressed juices such as the ‘Yukon’ which is made from carrot, orange, ginger, turmeric and black pepper, or the ‘Murray’ which is made from coconut water, pineapple, Thai basil and chia seeds. Shakes such as the ‘Niagara’ are made from kale, celery, choi sum, banana, almond milk and spirulina. Or you can opt to wash down your meal with a vegan beer made in Hong Kong by the Yardley Brothers. To top it all off, TREEHOUSE serves a variety of mouthwatering raw desserts such as coconut cake, chocolate and banana muffins, and cookie dough made from almond flour, dates and cashews.
The sustainable methodology of TREEHOUSE is not only clear from their menu. As a restaurant which offers take away, TREEHOUSE has to be particularly conscious of the environment when it comes to packaging. Some of their packaging is recyclable, like the glass bottles they use for juices and smoothies, which they clean professionally and re-use. But recycling is not the answer when it comes to protecting our environment, so they use compostable and biodegradable packaging made from rice starch where possible. If you’ve got your own containers at home, bring them along and you will receive 5% off your order. TREEHOUSE also has a system of planting two trees on behalf of the customer for every combo purchased from the menu. The restaurant works with Eden Reforestation Projects, and has already planted 10,000 trees in Madagascar.
Finally let’s talk about the space. Mongendre says, “our space is really non-dogmatic. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you eat—it’s for you”. You can opt to dine-in or take-away, but the majority of the space is taken up by a huge kitchen. Mongendre explains the reasoning behind this, “we want to be the kind of place that appeals to all types of consumers and people can still come despite their busy schedules. We really understand the Hong Kong market now and that people need to be served in the fastest, most efficient and convenient way”. Mongendre partnered with the award winning Stefano Tordiglione Design Studio to build the restaurant using sustainable materials such as certified eco-cement, reclaimed wood and 100% recycled plastic furniture. This has resulted in a fresh, airy space where visitors can connect with nature whilst enjoying a healthy, sustainable meal.