Bar and club Treehouse in Reading offers drinking, dancing and karaoke under one roof. Pictures by Richard Southall
From Rynd Bar & Kitchen, Coconut Bar & Kitchen and MatchBox to the refurbishments of Purple Turtle and Pavlov’s Dog, Reading’s bar and club scene has seen a lot of investment over the past year or so. The latest newcomer is Treehouse which has taken over the site of former nightclub K3 in Friar Street, bringing drinking, dancing and karaoke under one roof.
Owners Nancy and Brian Zhang have completely transformed the two-storey venue, including the addition of a rooftop terrace. They brought in one of the UK’s leading bar and club designers, Matt Rawlinson of Raw Design, to create striking interiors that have quickly helped to put it on the map.
The striking new look is designed to take the venue through from a chilled-out bar in the early evening to a more high-energy clubby atmosphere late at night. Alongside industrial elements, there are features that match the venue’s name including a tree-like structure. “It’s like a tree in an urban jungle – it is a kind of industrial garden,” Matt says.
Open from 5pm Monday to Saturday, Treehouse has a main ground-floor bar at the front, with a club section at the back that opens later at night. Upstairs are three karaoke rooms, each holding up to 10 to 15 people, and another bar and lounge area which acts as overspill for the ground floor on busy nights. “We wanted to break up the space as it was one giant box before,” Matt adds.
The urban and industrial feel are enhanced by street art on the walls, created by leading specialist Graffiti Kings, alongside strikingly designed chandeliers and pendants. There is also lots of recycled planking, including long benches made out of old scaffolding, while the front of the main ground-floor bar is clad in old American-style ceiling tiles. The new outside terrace has been built out on a flat roof at the back which, while having a glazed covering, is open enough for smokers.
The 550-capacity venue has a licence to 4am but serves until 3am at weekends and earlier during the week when the atmosphere is more laid-back. General manager James Spencer has developed popular club nights at weekends, with the more chilled-out Paradiso on Fridays, when they bring in celebrity PAs, and the more uptempo Marquee on Saturdays which features live entertainment such as fire breathers. With a new sound and lighting system installed, they have live DJs at weekends. “The acoustics are great and it’s attracting a decent crowd,” James says. “At weekends, it gets really manic.”
He and the bar team, headed by bar manager Becky Hynes, have put together a drinks list to appeal to their mainstream audience, from Kozel and Peroni Nastro Azzurro lagers on draught to premium spirits and wines. With VIP booths and table service, bottle serves are popular at the weekends, led by Grey Goose vodka and the likes of Jägermeister and Disaronno. Champagne is also popular, especially house brand Perrier-Jouët and Laurent-Perrier Rosé, with plans to extend the list to add Moët and Dom Pérignon.
A 35-strong cocktail list features many of the classics such as Martinis and Sours, but mostly with a twist such as a Hazelnut Margarita. Popular serves include the Pink Goose, made with Grey Goose, Disaronno, raspberry puree, lime and cranberry juice, and a hard shake combining butterscotch schnapps and vodka with vanilla syrup, toffee syrup and milk. Food is available from 5pm to 9pm, focused on gourmet pizzas such as the Treehouse Pizza topped with parma ham, bacon, mushroom and rocket with a balsamic glaze. Smaller snacks are available, ranging from onion rings to chicken goujons.
James says Treehouse is filled to capacity every weekend so they are now looking at new ideas for weekdays. It is already bringing people in for happy hour six nights a week from 5pm to 8pm, offering deals such as two-for-one on cocktails. James is also finalising plans to introduce a student night during the week. “On Saturdays, we are attracting people from a wide area including London so we are now looking at building trade during the week. People really like our friendly and relaxed environment for drinking, dancing and having fun.”
Treehouse, 108 Friar Street, Reading RG1 1EP
Tel: 0118 959 0676
Behind the scenes
Design: Matt Rawlinson of Raw Design
Main contractor: Astley Shopfitters
Wall art: Graffiti Kings
Fixed seating: Abbey Upholstery
Recycled features: Champs UK
Originally published in the June 2015 print edition of Bar magazine.