After a somewhat taxing day, including replacing a punctured tyre on the steepest part of Hanover, BN1’s editor and myself were more than happy to take a break at Brighton’s newest Cypriot kitchen – Papa Pitta.
Operating out of Brighton Bier’s Free Haus location, Papa Pitta is the brainchild of chef Yoddi Papa, a local Brightonian of Cypriot heritage which reflects in his cooking. The first thing we noticed was how easy-going the venue was. With a nice low ceiling, bare brick walls and lots of real greenery, Free Haus definitely lends itself to the taverna feel found at local restaurants and cafes throughout the Mediterranean.
We were warmly greeted by Yoddi who radiates a good positive energy, he showed us his new menu which boasts several different pitta options as well as interesting traditional sides like calamari and Badada chips. We went with the chef’s recommendation, Yoddi was particularly keen that we try the Sheftalias (Cypriot sausages) pitta. We went with that, a haloumi pitta and most of the sides on the menu. Then we grabbed some drinks from the bar, stocked with the finest local craft beer, before finding a quiet corner to relax in. There was an old picture on our table of Yoddi and his family in Cyprus, a nice throwback to his Cypriot roots that seemed to tell a story in itself.
Papa Pitta is a small open kitchen, giving a real sense of intimacy. On quieter days such as our visit, you can hear and smell the delicious food cooking away, giving the Cypriot style kitchen a very authentic feel. It wasn’t long before Yoddi brought out a couple of sides, a beetroot salad with feta cheese and some of the Badada chips. These were perfect starter size dishes or would be awesome on their own as a light bite. The beetroot salad was fantastic, the flavours of all the ingredients contrasted with each other, it was sweet with a little sharpness from the feta and some lovely fresh herbs to finish. The Badada chips are sliced like sautéed potatoes then twice fried and seasoned with oregano, the effect this has is like thick crisps with a light and fluffy interior, the perfect snacking food with one of Brighton Bier’s craft brews.
Next came the Souvlaki pitta kebabs, served on reclaimed terracotta tiles which was a nice touch. Immediately you can tell the pittas are going to taste clean and fresh, packed with traditional Cypriot ingredients like diced tomato, cucumber and herbs as well as the main ingredient of your choice and a drizzle of chilli sauce for a faint bite of heat. They also come with a lemon wedge to squeeze over your pitta, completing that wonderful Mediterranean flavour. At that point the table started to fill up with dishes as more sides arrived, some calamari, baked feta and an extra side of Sheftalia sausages. We got stuck in, sharing the pittas and trying a bit of everything. The pittas were not your average kebab to say the least, the Sheftalias were herby and juicy while the haloumi was just the right consistency with a nice squeaky chew to it. What’s great about these is the hint of spice followed by the cool, fresh flavours of the herbs and salad. They didn’t leave you feeling uncomfortably full and would be a perfect meal on a hot summer afternoon.
To be thorough, the calamari was thin and lightly battered with rice flour then seasoned with red peppercorn giving a pleasant kick to the delicate dish. The baked feta is another simple yet complex dish, similar to the beetroot salad, it has a few key ingredients like peppers and onions on top of the baked cheese that when combined produce a crazy variety of flavours, sweet, savoury, salty, you name it. This came with chargrilled flatbread, just right for dipping.
While we ate Yoddi talked us through the dishes and spoke a bit about his vision for Papa Pitta. It’s clear that he’s very passionate about his cooking but also wants Papa Pitta to have the right atmosphere and feel to it. The food is just part of the experience, it’s healthy, fresh, affordable pub grub that you can snack on with friends and family. In Cyprus, eating and drinking is a communal affair and this is what Yoddi wants Papa Pitta to replicate here. This is what makes Papa Pitta such an interesting new location in the Brighton food scene, they have a strong ethos driving their business, combined with a great location and fantastic menu. As the days get longer and warmer, grab some friends and head over to Papa Pitta at the Free Haus for a taste of the Mediterranean and some laid-back vibes.