NOW pay attention. This is a Public Service Announcement: the Yorkshire Dales are open for business.

Forget all the stories you have read and the TV reports you have seen portraying this most special part of God’s Own County in a state of devastation.

True, the monsoon rains which arrived at the end of July were biblical in proportion but they have passed on (and I hope I’m not tempting fate by writing those words). And while the clear-up continues, the roads are open, the bridges being re-built and if not everything is right with the world here, there’s an awful lot that is.

So it is your solemn duty to head for the Dales for the tourism-driven economy needs you.

The column decided to set an example, heading to Leyburn for Sunday lunch at The Sandpiper Inn.

Which actually made this a tricky assignment. I mean I can’t really urge you all to head for the hills to patronise a business like the Sandpiper if it turns out to be rubbish, can I?

But in truth I knew I was on a dead cert before we even crossed the threshold. The Sandpiper is one of those banker establishments that can be relied on for a first-class experience.

Jonathan Harrison came to Leyburn almost 20 years ago with his wife and young family on the back of a glittering career. A Roux Scholar in 1993, he trained with culinary royalty in the shape of the Alain Ducasse at the Louis XV Restaurant at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. That’s three-star Michelin posh for you.

The fact that he came to a small market town in the Dales, bought a pub and put down roots is quite remarkable. He could have gone anywhere and done anything but he came here. Praise be.

We’ve eaten lunch at The Sandpiper. We’ve eaten dinner at The Sandpiper. We’ve had a cheese sandwich and a pint at The Sandpiper. All good.

But we had not previously experienced the Sandpiper Sabbath repast.

The secret of the Sandpiper’s success is control. Jonathan describes himself as chef/patron which means he not only owns the place, he leads the team in the kitchen which is where he was last Sunday.

Out front daughter Rosie is in charge of an immaculately drilled team. Everything just works seamlessly.

As Sunday lunch menus go, the Sandpiper is a bit cheffy compared to your average Sunday pub fare.

Instead of the usual three roasts, fish and vegetarian alternatives, there is one roast in addition to the full a la carte summer menu - good news for those not wedded to the traditional Sunday offering.

Always the traditionalist on a Sunday, Sylvia went for the roast beef (£15) and a cracking piece of sirloin it was too. Thickly carved and pink-ish, it was super tender and mooing with flavour. She would have preferred a thicker gravy but had no quibble with its beefy essence.

Everything else which came with it was top notch, from the creamy mash to the modestly-sized but perfect Yorkshire pudding and lots of green veg – beans, broccoli and buttery wilted cabbage.

My chump of lamb (£18.25) was cut from that special place between the loin and the leg, roasted whole and pink and then sliced into discs of soft, lamby, moreishness. Beautiful, glistening Dauphinoise potato, summer veg (the aforementioned green stuff plus carrots) and a powerful redcurrant and mint jus completed a simple but perfect plateful.

We’d also had starters. A Panko breadcrumbed and fried puck of black pudding with a poached poulet egg and crispy slice of bacon with tomato chutney (£8) sounded like it would be an appetite killer but was in reality extraordinarily delicate and subtle.

That lightness of touch was evident too in the cooking of a pigeon breast (£8.50) – still almost heaving in its fresh, deep pinkness and complemented in spectacular fashion by an earthy lentil dhal, sweet mango slivers and shoots.

Two courses normally suits us fine on a Sunday but the all-round excellence of what we had eaten made us greedy for desserts.

Sylvia loved the lightness of her sticky toffee pudding (£7), the silky stickiness of the sauce and the creamy vanilla ice cream. I was similarly ecstatic about my raspberry and almond tart (£7.50) a super-charged crack cocaine (and just as addictive I reckoned) version of a Bakewell titivated with some fresh raspberries and equally good peach ice cream.

We were on a roll and ordered coffees to extend our stay and the overwhelming sense of well-fed, well-being that was washing over us.

Some will no doubt say that £85.90 for a three-course Sunday lunch for two with two glasses of wine is a bit stiff. Not a bit of it. Head for the Dales. They need you. You need to eat Jonathan Harrison’s Sunday lunch. Live a little.


The Sandpiper Inn, Market Place, Leyburn, DL8 5AT

Tel: 01969 622206


Open for food: 11.30am-2.30pm and 6-8.30pm Tuesday to Friday; 11.30am-2.30pm and 6-9pm Saturday; Sunday 11.30am-2.30pm and 6-8pm; closed Monday.

Disabled access. Special diets and allergens catered for

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 10, Service 10, Surroundings 8, Value for money 9