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Khamsa is a homely neighbourhood eaterie run by a couple who quit their jobs to pursue their goal of making Algerian cuisine better known. It’s an exceptionally pretty spot with intricate handmade crockery, colourful pillows and curtains, timber-panelled walls and blackboard menus.
The marvellous meze selection (£12, large enough for two) includes velvet-smooth zaalouk (aubergine and walnut paste), beetroot salad with fennel and anchovies, garlicky chickpeas topped with spicy meatballs, lentil and bulgar wheat salad, and a light yet flavoursome couscous salad.
The mains weren’t so impressive. Fish tagine came wrapped in silver foil, which aided temperature control, but made it cumbersome to eat, and the salmon lacked flavour. The ‘modern couscous’ dish featured a fantastically punchy broth, fresh vegetables, succulent grilled chicken and a spicy merguez sausage, but was let down by chewy pieces of lamb.
Service was generally pleasant, but we were alarmed by the owner’s stern tone when he asked why we were photographing the food. You can bring your own booze (no corkage), or there’s a range of fruit juices.