We all know Christian from the notable restaurants he helped found like MANA! and HOME – EAT TO LIVE. These dining establishments made an impact with more than just their all-caps monikers; they were also completely ahead of their time. A large pocket of loyal customers honed in and became lunchtime zealots, finally finding spaces that would feed them sustainable, wholesome, natural vegetarian ingredients that were neither boring nor preachy. Just good food that’s also good for you.
Now, Christian’s taken the learnings from his previous enterprises and poured them into his newest restaurant, TREEHOUSE, a fast-casual, tech-heavy concept that also happens to be plant based.
Christian says the idea for TREEHOUSE is to create a space that imbues a feeling of nature in the middle of the city. We spoke to Christian to find out the skinny on all the offerings at TREEHOUSE.
Tell us about TREEHOUSE.
TREEHOUSE is basically where we try to reimplement all the wonderful things that we were trying to do in the past and carry forward some new things. We partnered up with a design studio to really push the boundaries of the sourcing in terms of our eco material. And that company really pushed to have a lot of wonderful new textures and elements that were truly sustainable. That was part of our learning experience, because things in that space sometimes are very hard to adapt to restaurant operation use.
On the technology side, we really want to be a place that appeals to all types of consumers that want to order on their busy schedule. We really understand the Hong Kong market now and the most efficient, convenient way, while staying true to the product that we’re serving.
Do you think customers are asking different questions now than when you started MANA!?
Yes, over the years, things have changed exponentially. There are a lot more organic farmers on the scene, all reflecting that the demand is growing. Also people’s willingness is really increasing, like this year zero waste is a big kind of buzzword, so everyone’s aware about the issue now and all the hotels are changing, and so on and so forth. It seems that people are making more of a conscious effort and maybe are being more mindful about eating, not just eating anything on any given day but maybe saying, we only eat meat on weekends or something similar to that.
Like a “flexitarian” stance. Do you view that as a positive label?
Those labels are creating separation between people, and essentially, that’s not what we want. At this stage, we want to be another restaurant option that is appealing to everyone, and not just catering to a certain niche. In the past, maybe “vegetarian” had some negative connotations, but we need to give people more space to be 99% vegetarian but then occasionally be allowed to, you know, fuel their body with something that’s required. I find that vegan labels come with a lot of very serious activism and people get turned off by this. In this day and age, we don’t need separation; we need to realise that everything we’re doing is affecting everyone.
We all need to eat more plant based; there is no other real solution given to us as humans. So I think the need to go beyond labels is very important now. We tend to refer to ourselves as a quality-focused restaurant rather than vegetarian or vegan.
From left to right: Forest Burger, signature wraps and custom grain bowls at TREEHOUSE
What have you learned from your past few restaurants?
When we created the second iteration of MANA! Raw, we created a super product we were very proud of, but we would only get like the hardcore clients that were either from overseas and got it right away or people that dealt with health issues and had transitioned to a raw diet.
So basically, I’ve learned that you can create a great product, but the market may not be ready for it. And you have to cook for the market. Then you can just push it a little bit further.
What are you doing differently at TREEHOUSE?
We’re really trying to feel like a treehouse as you walk in, but we’re doing it really technology friendly, so the product comes out really fast. Hopefully, if you’re not busy, then you can come and hang out with us, but if not, you can just pick up at the window.
The big changes are that we’re making it even more healthy than what I’ve done in the past in terms of the digestive ability. So instead of having, you know, just normal flatbreads, we’re entering the sourdough space as well, so people can have bread, but it’s much lighter on the stomach with a better use of energy, as well as fermented ingredients. You can expect a lot of the same structure of a fast casual that we would have burgers and different wraps. You can make your own salad bowls, your own grain bowls. We have a lot of wonderful signature desserts, and most of them are raw because with desserts it’s not actually a trade-off; it’s just a wonderful way to bridge the gap overall. It’s a very positive message, very uplifting. It’s a place where we hope it brings people to reconnect with nature as a whole and also kind of build a community around this.
Shop 1, G/F, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central, 3971 2277
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