We sat down with passionate foodie and founder of Tawlet restaurants and Souk el Tayeb, Kamal Mouzawak, to learn more about his favorite spots around Lebanon and his latest projects.
If someone was visiting Lebanon for 24 hours where would you take them?
In terms of food, we would begin with Lebanese breakfast at the rooftop garden of Albergo (01 339797) – then a second foul breakfast at Le Professeur (01 703666). Early dinner would be street food, such as falafel or shawarma, followed by the perfect mezze dinner. I would end the day with a sunset drink at Sporting Club (01 742482).
In between all the indulgence, I’d drive my guest through the city to understand Beirut: Corniche, Hamra, the former Green Line, Gemmayzeh, Mar Mikhael and Achrafieh. I would also take them to Beirut National Museum and, of course, do some typical Beirut socializing: Salut, ca va?
Name your favorite places for Sunday lunch.
Where is the olive oil in your kitchens from?
The North; that decision was made by my father!
With the competition between North and South over their olive supremacy, it was Koura and the North that won over my father. He used to go for a day, buy his olives, then go to an olive press and extract “his own” oil; a two-year stock in huge old clay jars.
Tell us about a hidden gem in Lebanon that few people know about.
Jord el Batroun, with its dramatic valleys and villages; and then, at the end of it, the majestic Laqlouq.
Name one village or region that feels like home.
Any high mountain village; I’m definitely a child of high altitudes, the jord, deep valleys and high mountains. One of my favorites is the Adonis Valley and, at its peak, Charbineh in Jord Qartaba.
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I love not doing a thing in the middle of nowhere – in nature or high in the mountains.
Where would you go for the perfect spring weekend in Lebanon?
Anywhere in Lebanon where it is green, clean and flowery in spring is just perfect. For me, it’s the mountains again where melted snow flows into rivers.
I love the green West Bekaa, the lush Ammiq Wetlands as well as the Cedars and the surrounding mountains from Jaj to Tannourine, where you can find the most precious wild tulips and iris; though they are just a pleasure for the eyes – never pick flowers from the wild!
You have passionately built the Souk el Tayeb brand over the past 15 years. What prompted you to start the project?
It all started at The Garden Show & Spring Festival in Beirut in 2004. I was invited to bring together regional producers and gathered 10 people from different parts of the country. The festival lasted five days and the farmers’ market was a great success; so much so that it quickly became a regular event every Saturday in Beirut – first in Saifi Village, then at Beirut Waterfront and more recently in Beirut Souks. In 2009 we opened our first Tawlet restaurant in Mar Mikhael and everything continued growing from there. It’s been an exciting 15 years!
There are currently four guesthouses within the Souk el Tayeb family: Beit Ammiq, Beit Douma, Beit Tawlet and Beit Al Qamar. What can we expect from your newest accommodation in Hamra?
Our newest guesthouse, Beit El Hamra, is a 1950’s gem that’s perfectly located amid the beautiful chaos of Hamra. I knew the moment I saw the place that it would join the Souk el Tayeb family; and what’s even more exciting is the fact that we will have a Tawlet there too. There is a lovely terrace and garden for guests to relax, so we’re waiting for you!