Telephone: (020) 7733 3150
This return visit was in the early evening and we managed to get a seat – so be warned you need to book for any later than 7.00pm. You can do that online and at the time of this post it was not open at all on Monday or Sunday evening.
We are impressed that the place is still open but perhaps the rising house prices in the local area are actually supporting the local economy.
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. The tables have a large metal plat on them and the meal is served on this – a bit of a struggle to get the cutlery, glasses and plat (well more of a bowl really) so they might consider whether this is the easiest arrangement for eating even if it does contribute to an ethnic atmosphere.
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. The choice is limited but there are specials on the chalk board which differ each day. We chose the salmon and a modern couscous. Both were delicately flavoured although the vegetables with the salmon were a bit boring.
The speciality is Algerian pastries and we took these away with us as we were definitely full after just a main course. The cakes are definitely the stars of the show – delicate and flavoured with rosewater and filled with nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts) – we had six to take home and they really are delicious but perhaps not as dessert. The chef originally trained as a pastry chef and so you really shouldn’t leave without trying something.
It still doesn’t have a drink license and so there were lots of plastic bags with beer or wine and they are happy to provide glasses and there was no corkage fee. They offer the ubiquitous mint tea but also make their own juices – I had apple and mint which went down all too easily.
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 pricing at the time – competition mainly being with the greasy spoon, Chinese takeaway and chip shop down the road. Our main courses, bread, cakes and drinks came to £42.30 with a service charge. So not unreasonable and clearly they have customers so there is a local market. We will go back again but perhaps not for a little while for dinner but will certainly bear it in mind for the pastries.