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Saturday, 14 May 2011

Khamsa: A taste of Algeria in London

Khamsa on Urbanspoon

Khamsa is situated in the most unlikely place for a restaurant, Acre Lane, which runs from Clapham Common all the way to Brixton and is an 'experience' within itself. Acre Lane is an industrial looking street filled with Kebab and off-license shops. Run by an Algerian couple, Khamsa is like a little diamond in the rough.

The restaurant is small, with maybe 6 or 8 tables (and a downstairs 'chill-out" area), and always seems to be booked out! The decor is charming, with big windows covered in purple drapes, and lots of pillows and throws setting the North African theme. I recommend booking to avoid disappointment. 

The restaurant does not have a liquor license, but you can BYO with no corkage charge. Unfortunately, bottles become a burden as wine/cider is not offered to be placed in a cooler/fridge, and could potentially become a traffic hazard under your feet at the table (which is where we had to put them, on the floor). Never mind the small glasses, but could we have some ice? Also not provided. It would be a great improvement to the service, dining experiance and general atmosphere if such 'little things' were thought about.

Food here is freshly made to order, and all the meat dishes are prepared on premises and from scratch. Ingredients are sourced from the local market in Brixton. 

The starter menu consists of 'cold salads' or 'dips' ranging around £4 each. We ordered three to start, which was possibly too much as they are generous servings. Served with fresh bread, the flavours were outstanding. The Baba Ghanouch was creamy and light, with the aubergine flavour strong but not overpowering. The Ajhroum di Felefel (pepper and tomato salad) was rich in Mediterraneanan influenced flavour, which is also common in Algerian cuisine.

We ordered the lamb (meatballs) Tagine for the main, which can be served with couscous (plain or with pomegranate) or fresh bread, and the Lamb skewers served with couscous and a side order of vegetables.

I probably could have done without the extra order of couscous with my Tagine, because the other lamb dish came with enough for two! The side vegetables did not have enough sauce to be absorbed by all the couscous, and therefore I would say the overall dish was a little dry and slightly bland. The meat in both dishes was well seasoned and tender.

The lamb tagine was made with olives and onion. The sauce was delicious, however the olives did not have the flavour of the sauce, which makes me wonder if they were put in straight from a jar, as opposed to slow cooked with the other vegetables.

We were too full to order desserts.  This is something that I would like to come back for and try, as the owner is a pastry chef.

The service was good, and I enjoyed the chemistry of the couple working together, it really made the restaurant feel cosy.

Would I come back - Yes (because I feel there is more to sample on the menu - but I would not order the same main dishes)
Was I 'Wowed' - not entirely
Would I recommend - Yes for locals of Clapham and Brixton as this offers a new type of cuisine around the area, and I enjoyed the starters

The meal came to £40 with tip (excluding BYO wine).

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