Papa Pitta at the Freehaus, Brighton: Fabulous fresh and healthy kebabs in a spruced up ‘modern tavern’

Beetroot salad and Badada chips. Photo by Paul Jenkins
Beetroot salad and Badada chips. Photo by Paul Jenkins

Kebabs and cold refreshing alcoholic drinks – it’s certainly not their first outing together, but Papa Pitta at the Freehaus pub is a far more wholesome and refined combination of the two.

Papa Pitta is the creation of Hangleton-born Yoddi Papa, who has created a souvlaki-centred menu based on traditional Cypriot dishes with some tip-top twists along the way.

Calamari at Papa Pitta. Photo by Paul Jenkins

Calamari at Papa Pitta. Photo by Paul Jenkins

He first set up shop in 2015 as a pop-up in North Laine’s Diplocks Market and has recently taken on the kitchen at the newly-refurbished Freehaus pub off Elm Grove, which was previously the Reservoir.

A more cheery and talkative chef you’ll struggle to find. Yoddi’s open kitchen is perched above the pub’s main seating area from where he greets all-comers, regulars and new punters alike, and is down as quick as a flash whenever there’s time for a chat.

He’s justifiably proud of the food, a fresh take on much-loved Cypriot tucker, using tried-and-tested family recipes that have been passed down through generations, with a bit of fine-tuning.

The aforementioned past generations are also there in spirit as they beam out from black and white family portraits on the pub’s tables.

Papa Pitta. Past generations of Yoddi Papa's family. By Paul Jenkins

Papa Pitta. Past generations of Yoddi Papa's family. By Paul Jenkins

It’s fair to say they’d approve of what’s on offer.

A bowl of plump and juicy olives seemed like the sensible place to start. The dark purple Kalmata olives (The King of Olives apparently) are said to be full of full of fibre and antioxidants, and able to help to lower blood pressure. Had I known that then I would have eaten even more of the beauties.

Next up was a parcel of baked feta. The creamy cheese was cooked in garlic oil, with red onion and red peppers, plenty of oregano, and mopped up by some rather fetching pointy shards of flatbread.

We, predictably, gushed about the wonderful hot cheese and Yoddi insisted the French had nabbed the idea from their Hellenic friends.

Chicken Souvlaki at Papa Pitta. By Paul Jenkins

Chicken Souvlaki at Papa Pitta. By Paul Jenkins

A portion of crispy calamari was flecked with fetching red pepper in its batter, which it transpired was cooked in rice flour to keep those who are gluten-free in on the squid vibe.

The beetroot salad also had a few clever additions. The superfood was topped with some more of that fluffy feta, and dressed in a winning sweet mix of mint and honey, with some crushed walnuts to complete the picture.

Last up before the ‘babs were the brill Badada chips. A magnificent hybrid of chips and crisps that I never knew were a thing. These twice-cooked potato slices were also given the full oregano and feta treatment, with thin crispy fried spuds alongside slightly fatter discs. I love to find chippy variants and these were blooming marvellous.

The charcoal-grilled souvlaki kebabs make up the main courses of the Papa Pitta menu. Served in pitta, filled with red cabbage, tomato, cucumber, onion, parsley, tzatziki and chilli sauce, these were hefty and much healthier beast than your average high-street offering, and are very good value (£8 for meaty or cheesy options, £7 for vegan).

An unwrapped burly bundle of joy at Papa Pitta, By Paul Jenkins SUS-190405-232927001

An unwrapped burly bundle of joy at Papa Pitta, By Paul Jenkins SUS-190405-232927001

We chose a chicken souvlaki and a behemoth of a pitta with both Halloumi and Sheftalies (£12 for two souvlaki).

The chicken had previously taken a day-long dip in a garlic, lemon and herb marinade, the halloumi had been brushed with herb butter, and the Cypriot herb and black pepper sausage was a flavour bomb in itself and needed nothing more before grilling.

Both were first rate. The pittas heaved with sizzled meats, cheese and chunky salads, and were burly bundles of joy. They were also served wrapped with the added buzz of and cutlery-free eating.

It helped that the pub is the sort of relaxed place where you’re happy to get stuck in.

It’s the third Brighton boozer taken on by the Brighton Bier company, alongside the Brighton Bierhaus and the Haus on the Hill. The Reservoir wasn’t a bad juicer itself and the new owners have retained the comfortable local pub feel (a common feature of all the best pubs in the Hanover, Elm Grove, Queens Park-end of town) but have made the place feel a little fresher.

Billed as a ‘modern tavern’ Brighton Bier wants it to be true freehouse with the ‘best rotating range of local craft beer along with guest beers from across the UK and overseas’. They are also hoping it’ll become the first choice for Brighton’s cider swiggers and have a sizeableroster of those too .

The Good Ship Personal Mid-week Beer Ban crashed after one mouthful of salty olives, sitting in full view of a Siren’s chorus of those rather smashing looking draft brews. We glugged down two crisp German pilseners, and a couple of very reasonably-priced cask IPAs.

The bar service was excellent and super friendly, and it helped that they played a remarkable number of Bob Dylan tracks which almost made me cry with happiness into my beer.

Papa Pitta and the Freehaus are good together. A super combination of cracking Cypriot food in a very agreeable new venue.

By Steve Holloway