Address: 140 Acre Lane, Brixton, London, SW2 5UT
Telephone: (020) 7733 3150
Khamsa resides in a little oasis of shops and restaurants in the middle of Acre Lane opposite Upstairs (french) and a coffee shop. It still looks like a corner shop but inside it has turned into a warm dining area with wooden floor, ceiling and Algerian knick knacks over the walls. We visited this restaurant in the evening as part of our plan to visit restaurants from countries around the world. We thought it wouldn’t last as it is in a place without too much passing trade. But it has lasted and that must be because it has a following in the local area.
North African food is pretty easy to get hold of in London but it is mainly from Morocco so it was a treat to visit something rarer and so close to home. All the food is made on site and include as starters selections of Algerian salads. The names are definitely confusing but consist of vegetables e.g. carrots with lots of cumin and coriander. There is the usual merguez (spicy sausages) and more familiar things such as houmus. The main courses you may think you have seen in a Moroccan restaurant such as tajines and couscous but there are definitely some differences with more roast vegetables and unusual ingredients such as salmon or with sauces thickened with ground almonds. But after all these choices you really need to leave room for the pastries. For instance the dried figs dipped in chocolate and filled with almond or the pistachio macaroon-style biscuits. If you are too full to consider then consider taking home a sample for later. The chef originally trained as a pastry chef and so you really shouldn’t leave without trying something.
It doesn’t have a drink license but the mint tea is cheap and delicious and they also make their own juices – like pear and basil. I had the apple and mint which went down all too easily. If you really want to bring a bottle they are happy for you to do so and do not as yet charge a corkage fee.
The reason that we thought it would fail early is that the nearest thing pulling in likely passing trade customers was Lidl on the other side of the street. That went with our view of how they had pitched the prices – about £25 per person for 3 courses. That is reasonable but we thought might be a bit steep next to the fish and chip restaurants and the take away Chinese. Clearly the word is now out and perhaps Khamsa is here to stay.