Everyone loves a restaurant with a personal touch, but Papa Pitta in the North Laine’s Diplocks Market takes it to a new level. Each table is decorated with weathered black and white photos of the owner Yoddi Papa’s family back in Cyprus. “This is my dad when he was about ten,” he tells us, proudly pointing out the one on our table. “He’s 64 now. He runs a chip shop in Chichester.”
The eatery has been in its current location for around a month, and while the food is traditional Cypriot fare, Yoddi’s a Brightonian born and bred. “There aren’t many of us left,” he says. “When I opened this place I only wanted to do it in my home town.”
The homely feel is complemented by a sense of humour; there’s a sign offering a “Grexit special” on chicken souvlakis… £9.95, or 15 million drachmas each. “15 million drachmas… that’s only about a fiver,” jokes Yoddi.
Thankfully, the food focuses on quality rather than variety. “We wanted to keep it simple and just do a few things well,” Yoddi beams. And it’s just as well, because we order the entire menu. Literally…
It’s a mezze large enough to satisfy medieval royalty: grilled haloumi; squid rings sprinkled with pink peppercorns; beetroot and feta salad with mint, honey and walnuts; succulent, stubby sheftalias (traditional herb and black pepper sausages); baked feta with peppers; salty potato chips flavoured with oregano; and a jug of cucumber water.
Just as we’re about to admit defeat, the “main” of souvlaki served in pitta arrives. It’s bursting with grilled meat and finely chopped onion, cucumber and cabbage. At first, it feels a little dry on the palate; screaming for some humous and a few slabs of tomato. But this is rectified by a drizzle from the accompanying shot glasses of tzatziki and fiercely piquant chilli sauce (just remember, you were warned about the chilli sauce).
An honourable mention must go to the tahini dip. It’s a bit special; rich and garlicy with a tangy hit. But Yoddi is reluctant to reveal the recipe. “It’s made of sesame seeds and… erm, it’s a secret. The chef won’t even tell me,” he laughs.
Even though the rain is lashing down so hard that the makeshift roof threatens to collapse, Papa Pitta still manages to exude an authentic “holiday” feel. This is amplified by the smokey waft from the grill and the Cypriot music floating through the air — and, of course, the food. Now all we need is for the sun to come out.
Papa Pitta is currently looking for more permanent premises but will be at at Diplocks Market, 73 North Road BN1 1YD, until August.
Words by Wine Ninjas