The Treehouse Bar & Restaurant
Despite only opening its doors at the beginning of September, The Treehouse Bar & Restaurant has already established itself as a leading destination in North West Ireland.
Located in the village of Muff, County Donegal, just a short distance from Kilderry forest, The Treehouse is the brainchild of brothers and local entrepreneurs Joseph and Paul McGonigle. The venue combines an incredible design with great food, a range of drinks and live entertainment to appeal to locals and tourists alike. From the bar through the main dining space and into the outdoor terrace, The Treehouse cultivates a cosy, welcoming atmosphere rooted in its stunning location.
Kilderry forest formed much of the inspiration for the venue. “Where the building is, it used to be a fairly big forest,” said Joseph McGonigle, speaking to Premier Hospitality. “They took down some of the forest and built houses about 15 years ago. At the time it was the biggest rookery in Europe and Muff village in the evening was like something out of a horror movie with crows. We felt we were tied in with the forest.
“We came up with the Treehouse name – I’ll give my brother credit for that. He also then came up with the idea of having five trees in the building.
“The area that we love, the village of Muff, over the last 10 years a lot of bars and restaurants that were in the area have gradually closed and gone out of business. We were aware for a while that there was an opening but you don’t really know until you open the doors. We’ve ended up with the busiest restaurant within 30 miles of here, including the hotels. Since it opened, we’ve been unbelievably busy.”
To carry out the design for The Treehouse, the brothers turned to Belfast-based architect and interior design firm Clarke and Whiteman. Director Yvonne Clarke had to the daunting task of transforming a large shell into a warm, intimate space. She said:
“I am actually from Muff so there’s a local connection. Believing very much as a design practice in the concept of ‘Genius Loci’ and connecting design with location and setting, we did our very first presentation utilising the backdrop of Kilderry as the concept.
“The brief was always that they wanted somewhere that locals and tourists would be able to come to and feel that it was cosy, warm and inviting. Before the fit out commences and the plastering was finished and there was nothing inside, it felt more like a cathedral than something could be made warm and inviting! It was a bit terrifying at the time but the substantial trees that are planted through the body of the building extend up to 4 metres and lend a particular atmosphere.
“The other things that we used to bring some sense of human scale to the area were the chandeliers, which we envisaged almost as raindrops, one of the only places where we chose to use cool lights. We designed them to reach as far down from the ceiling into the space counteracting the trees reaching upwards. All of the other lighting uses warm lights particularly where lighting reflects off brass surfaces giving distinct butter coloured glow to the space.
“We have the colour palette to an autumnal selection interspersed with cool blues on occasion and used a range of metallic surfaces to reflect the light around the interior. Artworks are all bespoke and the raised area at the end of the restaurant features backlit perspex paintings featuring the beloved rooks of Kilderry – renamed as the ‘crow’s nest’! Murals include text by W.B. Yeats ‘The Two Trees’ and also local to the area playwright Brian Friel’s work ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’. My favourite space is the curved booths on the raised area by the fireplace where the brass railings, metallic tiles and charcoal globe lights have a way of reflecting the late afternoon light which streams in from the west that conjures the play of light below a canopy of trees during the autumn – all whilst sipping my favourite cocktail of an evening!”
Construction on the project began in February and thanks to the warm and dry summer was able to keep to schedule. The Treehouse is open 7 days a week and serves lunch and dinner, as well as a Sunday lunch service. Standout dishes on the dinner menu include traditional fish and chips, pan fried hake, Thai green curry and beef short rib.
Reflecting on the project, Joe concluded:
“Over 2000 people live here and they had nowhere to go and eat within walking distance of the village. Now they can come here, have a couple of drinks and walk home. As a family we already have a service station and it’s very busy. We fancied a new challenge and went all in on it.”
“It was probably one of the most important projects I’ve done in a long time because of the local connection I have to the area and we are very pleased with the overall look and finish that has been achieved by the whole team complimented of course by the great food and drinks now served here.”
Gfeller Specialist Joinery Ltd
Gfeller Specialist Joinery Ltd specialise in the delivery of bespoke cabinetry for the commercial and domestic market. The company has been in operation since 1994 and over the past 24 years has built up a strong portfolio of projects which includes the FAI headquarters in Dublin, Argento Jewellery stores, Harrods, Chateau La Coste Hotel and Spa in Provence, Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport and The Spa at The Slieve Donard Hotel, amongst others.
More recently, Gfeller Specialist Joinery Ltd has been involved with The Treehouse, providing all the specialist joinery items and metal work to the bar and restaurant. Items included the bar, wall panelling, seating, the tree boxes, hand railing, the feature wall which divides the bar and restaurant and the meet and greet station, as well as some back of house cabinets.
Todd Gfeller, Gfeller Specialist Joinery Ltd, said:
“It was a pleasure to be a part of a great team to bring such a fantastic project to an area in Donegal that is very close to my heart. I was married just up the road from there and my first home and workshop were about 200 yards away. I think the design team have done an amazing job and I have to tip my hat to the clients for undertaking such an ambitious project.”
“We are a small company that prides itself on punching above our weight. We offer a personal service to our clients and provide bespoke cabinetry made to the highest standard. We have had many repeat customers which is a testament to our staff and company as a whole.”