THE local news website feverishly announced: “Devastated Ripon residents react to shock closure of Lockwoods restaurant”.

As hyperbole goes it’s right up there. I mean is a restaurant closing its doors ever ‘shock news’? Did the good folk of Ripon book themselves into intensive counselling sessions for post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of this unquestionably better-than-average eaterie closing its doors?

I know this is a dangerous game. No doubt this week’s edition of our august journal will have a headline which doesn’t quite hit the mark.

But it made me chuckle and speculate on whether the restaurant that has taken the place of the of a place favourably reviewed here 12 years ago was good enough to soothe the stressed-out gastronomes of Ripon.

Papa’s is Olsi Papa’s second enterprise, the first being a Papa’s in Harrogate. Both are billed as serving authentic Mediterranean cuisine.

Which is stretching it just a bit. A cursory glance at the menu (which is common to both the Harrogate and Ripon establishments) suggests that this is a Greek restaurant. Stifado, kleftiko, lahaniko…all Greek classics.

The “meze/tapas” menu offers only patatas bravas which could feasibly be described as something other than Greek. So Papa’s is a Greek restaurant rather than a Mediterranean one.

And absolutely nothing wrong with that. But why the charade?

No matter. We love Greek food even if it does here seem to be labouring under the handicap of an identity crisis. Just as we loved the Turkish food served by Eighteen81 – another Ripon restaurant which closed after we had given it a pretty glowing review.

Is the column the kiss of death? Well, no it isn’t because Manchega, an authentic Spanish tapas joint in the city that we raved about not so long ago, is still going strong on Duck Hill.

Common to all these restaurants is the small plates concept, the Mediterranean idea of little bits of this and that, typically served with an aperitif.

Us Brits have taken to it enthusiastically in recent years. Almost everywhere offers small plates these days.

But rather than selecting one, maybe two, plates we go all in. I mean it’s so hard to chose from so many, isn’t it?

We’re as guilty as anyone of that and decided we would not bother with mains and instead go large with the meze. We ordered nine dishes which was inevitably perhaps too many but to be fair one of those was pitta bread (£1) and two others were dips so it wasn’t as disgustingly greedy as it initially might sound.

Not surprisingly in view of its rather incongruous inclusion in a selection of meze the patatas bravas (£5) would have had the guys round the corner at Manchega laughing into their gazpacho.

Plain, anaemic-looking white potato not fried in olive oil but supposedly oven-baked, they were covered in an insipid tomato sauce. No heat, no character. Not so much patatas bravas as patatas timido.

The chicken wings (£5.50) were particularly well fleshed but on the dry side. The chilli sauce had plenty of kick but not much else.

Things were much better with the Greek meze.

The spanakopita (spinach pie £5.50) was the best of the lot. Crisp filo pastry filled with salty feta, spinach and dill, it was served with a garnish of dressed chick peas and a little pot of tzatziki yoghurt dip.

The spetsofai (£6) weighed in with porky heft – a coarse country-style sausage cooked in tomato sauce, with onions, peppers and lot of garlic. Powerful stuff.

Gigandes (£5) were giant butter beans in herby olive oil – earthy and satisfying – dolmades (£5) were the classic stuffed vine leaves - four of them with more tzatziki – but the rice filling seemed a bit too soggy.

We ordered two dips – a rather thick and claggy hummus (£3) - and a much better melitzanosalata (£4) – aubergine, garlic and olive oil – which was surprisingly zingy and refreshing. We also shared a small Greek salad (£5) which was a bit heavy on the cucumber and light on feta.

Collectively, there was an awful lot of food and we’d managed to eat most of it but as you might expect I went the extra mile on your behalf forcing myself to tackle a honey-drenched orange flan (£5.50) which was sweet, sticky but a bit stodgy.

We were looked after pretty well apart from an initial slightly hesitant welcome and then that most frequently encountered service phenomenon – what I call the false start – one of those occasions when 30 seconds after being seated and presented with menus the waiter/waitress returns and asks what you want. And then being left for what seems like an eternity before returning and taking the order.

The bill was just shy of £59 with two glasses of white wine included.

Is Papa’s adequate compensation for the loss of Lockwoods? Perhaps not but I think the traumatised citizens of Ripon may have got over the shock now.


Papa’s, 83 North Street, Ripon, HG4 1DP

Tel: 01765 600022


Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday 5-10pm, Saturday noon-10pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Disabled access.

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 7, Service 6, Surroundings 7, Value 5, Well-being and counselling 9