People travel across Liverpool to café for food and drink they 'can't find anywhere else'

Belal Kabalan and Maria Charami, owners of Blends Mediterranean Café
-Credit: (Image: Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)


Belal Kabalan thinks his latest venture offers Liverpool something it's never had before.

Originally from Syria, the 38-year-old moved to the city 16 years ago to study engineering at John Moores University. After graduating, he worked as a telecoms engineer at Jaguar Land Rover in Halewood for seven years but decided he wanted a change.

Belal set up the international supermarket Melo's in 2018, beginning on London Road before relocating to Williamson Street - just off Williamson Square in Liverpool city centre. Capitalising on their success with the shop, Belal and business partner Maria Charami set up Mediterranean café Blends in the unit next door at the start of May.

READ MORE: Timings for Cunard Queen Anne arrival, naming ceremony and departure at Liverpool’s Pier Head

READ MORE: Get latest updates on Taylor Swift Eras tour sent straight to your phone

A month into life at Blends, Belal spoke to the ECHO about what led him to run the café and how it has begun. He said: "I left engineering because I wanted to do something for myself, rather than stay in the corporate world.

"I also thought the city needed something like this. There was nothing like this, that was fresh, for the people from those countries living here and for the locals to try something nice and new.

Inside Blends Mediterranean Café
Inside Blends Mediterranean Café -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

"It is nice food - good, fresh ingredients - but sometimes it's maybe not presented nicely in other places. Or it's not up to standard.

Blends serve food from across the Mediterranean - taking its name from the blend of cultures represented on its menu. It serves Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and Italian cuisines, but it has a particular focus on Levantine food, originating from the east of the Mediterranean.

At the core of what Blends offers is manouche, which Belal describes as: "the Levantine take on pizza". He adds: "This is the original pizza - if you look at the history of it - this was the first step of pizza.

"We bake everything fresh in here, and we prepare the dough in the mornings. We cook all the ingredients, it is all prepared here, then it comes in many nice varieties.

"The most traditional one is the Za'atar, but people have been inventive with it over the years. There are a variety of different toppings."

Among the most popular manouche toppings are halloumi, Za'atar - which is a mixture of herbs - and Mouhamara Kashkaval, which is dressed with Levant cheese and rocket. Bringing the product to Liverpool is what excites Belal most about running Blends.

"This is my call - the manouche", he said. "I'm trying to raise awareness of it because it's really tasty. Pizza is pizza - everybody loves pizza, but this is more exciting. You see the different types of toppings we offer.

"Raising awareness for non-Arabs is key. I'm not sure the Western world yet knows about it.

"It's exciting to be bringing that to Liverpool. Always, when I explain it to people what it is - a Levantine take on pizza - they're intrigued."

The chefs at Blends Mediterranean Café
The chefs at Blends Mediterranean Café -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

Blends' menu goes much further than manouche, however - there are many pastries and coffees on offer. Belal and the team are also working on a breakfast menu, which will include brunch favourites, Turkish and Levantine dishes, as well as a juice bar.

Belal added: "We have a lot of Greek pastries - feta cheese pastries and all you would expect. We have cakes that are a mixture of Greek and Arabic styles.

"Then we have the coffees. You have your normal cappuccinos and lattes, but then you have the Greek ones - Freddo espresso, Freddo cappuccino."

"I'm getting all the Greeks from across Liverpool to come now because they love this and they can't find it anywhere else.

"We also have the Arabic drinks. We want to include everyone - we're always blending and want to bring as many cultures in.

"The customers have been a real mix of people. A lot of international students, young professionals, and locals. It's been great - a nice mixture of people."

Blends are found at 14 Williamson St, Liverpool L1 1EB

The Liverpool Daily Post newsletter delves into the biggest stories on Merseyside

Win a 55" Hisense TV and American-style fridge-freezer worth £2,200 to enhance your UEFA Euro experience