BY a quirk of fate that I still don’t quite understand, we found ourselves without childcare duties on a Wednesday night recently. A night out on a school night beckoned and we were out of the door without a clue where we were going. We felt guilty for at least the time it took to pull the car out of the drive.

After weighing up the options, we decided to stay local just in case the older children’s hastily-arranged sleepover fell apart or the grandparents needed rescuing from the baby.

Giovannis, an Italian just off Leyburn market square, has been a family favourite for years, but it has recently been taken over by new owners. Change is not always good for restaurants, but we went with empty bellies and open minds.

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Despite it being a midweek, we found the restaurant full to the gills. No panic though as we were told there would be a space if we popped back in 15 minutes.

After a quick drink at the Sandpiper around the corner – a fine restaurant in its own right – we returned to find a table waiting. Giovannis is a small restaurant. I suppose you could call it cosy, but with all the other tables full, and the good number of young people eating, I think fun and lively would be a better description for the night we went at least. The rest of the town centre seemed dead – as country market towns often do after 5.30pm – but we could have been dining out in a hustling and bustling trendy metropolitan bistro – if you ignored the tractors that occasionally trundled past the window.

So, anyway the food. Sarah had classic bresaola with parmesan, rocket and pine nut salad (£6.50). I’ll be honest. We didn’t know what bresaola was and were foolish enough not to ask. We now know it’s salted beef. If we had known that before ordering, we wouldn’t have chosen it as Sarah doesn’t like cold meat of any description.

I thought it was lovely though, as was my delicate and salty grilled mackerel with avocado, peppers and black olives (£5.50).

Moving on to mains, Sarah’s choice of lamb rump, Mediterranean vegetables, basil croquette and olive sauce was much more to her liking. The pink lamb, supplied from a farm near Kirkby Malzeard according to the menu, was melt-in-the mouth tasty and the croquettes were so good I was only allowed a nibble.

My poached sole fillet with a smoked salmon mousse, samphire, saffron and clam chowder (£14.95) was also excellent.

The mousse came stuffed inside the rolled fillet of sole which when dipped in the generous portion of chowder and accompanied by the samphire was a fishy tasty treat.

We finished with an apple tarte tatin (£5.50) to share, which was sweet, sticky and just the ticket.

Chatting to owner Sarah McBride, who runs front of house while husband Michael cooks, after the meal it was clear she has huge enthusiasm for the job ahead and clear idea of what she wants – a place people can come to enjoy good food, good service and good company. Sounds good to me.

The bill came to a few pence under £60, including a large glass of wine, a bottle of Askrigg Ale – brewed a few miles further up Wensleydale – and a couple of cokes. If we had stuck to pizza, which cost less than £7, it would have been a good deal cheaper.

Still, we thought it was good value for money and well worth a visit any day of the week.

Giovannis, 13 Railway Street, Leyburn,
DL8 5BB.
Tel: 01969-622951

Food facts

Ambience: 4/5 stars 
Service: 4/5 stars 
Food quality: 4/5 stars 
Value for money: 4/5 stars