Khamsa Cafe: a plant-based Palestinian gem

Photo: Khamsa Cafe/Facebook.

Elizabeth Usher reviews the popular Khamsa Cafe, which serves up vegan Palestinian fare in Sydney’s Inner West.

Vegan NSW recently hosted a webinar titled ‘How consistent anti-oppression enriches and saves both animal & human lives’. The panel included Khamsa Cafe’s founder, Sarah Shaweesh, whose bio stated that she ‘showcases her heritage by creating hybrid plant-based versions of Palestinian food’. 

Stay tuned for a future Sydney Sentinel article on the discussion. But in the meantime, I’ve snuck in a visit to Khamsa Cafe, which boasts a lovely corner position in the south end of King Street, on the Newtown/Erskineville border. 

We arrived soon after 9am on a Saturday morning; bifold doors were open to the side lane and allowed for a wonderful sense of openness – and made for a great dog-friendly section.  

Khamsa was already buzzing at a Covid-safe capacity.  However, a table opened up before we were even able to finish reading through the menus, and after cleaning it down, Shaweesh showed us to our seats.

I mentioned I’d seen her on the webinar, and we talked about VeganNSW and the Sydney Vegan Markets. She’d never been able to have a stall there due to the cafe’s weekend trading hours – and incredibly, two years into running the business, Khamsa’s hours are now further extended: starting at 8am every day, closing at 3pm Sunday to Thursday but going all the way through to 9pm on Friday and Saturday nights.  

I asked Shaweesh how she managed it and she laughed and said “I know, right!” before praising her “great team”.

We certainly enjoyed experiencing this teamwork, with friendly service that was both helpful in answering questions and efficient in bringing out our orders. 

The food itself was well-presented, colourful and tasty.

Eggplant dishes are so often either fabulous or unpleasant, and it all rests on whether or not the eggplant is undercooked. Fortunately, the Eggplant Shakshuka ($19) was perfect; mixed in with tomatoes and chickpeas, the eggplant was beautifully textured, topped off with a tofu scramble (which also features on the menu in a separate dish) with mushrooms, pesto and sumac tomatoes.

The Eggplant Shakshuka at Khamsa Café. Photo: Elizabeth Usher.
Falafel Bagel at Khamsa Café. Photo: Elizabeth Usher.

The Falafel Bagel ($16) was also delicious, with a generous amount of zaatar seasoning amping the dish up above your staple Inner West brunch bagel.  

We could have stopped there but definitely wanted to try something from the well-stocked dessert fridge! 

It was hard to choose, but we settled on a slice of orange and rosewater cake with lashings of icing, and an individual raspberry and passionfruit one (like an upside-down cupcake).

When it came time to leave, we couldn’t go past the savoury pastries near the register, snaffling up two each of the Fattayar (featuring silverbeet, sumac & onion) and Sfeeha (with plant-based mince, cheese and herbs), both $8.  

Eating them later in the day was a delightful reminder of our meal at this airy, bright and cheerful café.  

You can’t miss it on King Street, with the chalkboard out the front proudly spruiking the ‘Homemade Palestinian Food’ available inside.

It’s a definite paws-up to Khamsa Cafe for the food, the service, and the dog-spotting opportunities!  

Khamsa Cafe is located at Shop 3, 612-622 King St, Erskineville.
0418 451 791

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