I LEFT the newsroom with the words “Get ready for the meat sweats” following me out of the door and headed for Rios in the town centre.

Having heard great things about the South American love for barbecue from my adventurous, nearly octogenarian, mother who had experienced it on a tour of Argentina, Chile and Brazil, I’d decided to taste first hand what it was all about.

So I plumped for Rios Brazil Churrascaria. Tucked away near the bottom of Bridge Street and a short walk from the station, as we approached we could hear from the hubbub of chatter that the restaurant was busy even though it was a Thursday night.

Inside we found many of the tables occupied, some by groups celebrating birthdays. I was relieved I’d followed the advice to book a table in advance.

A friendly greeting and we were whisked to a table for two in the corner. After we’d settled in and taken a look at the menu we ordered our drinks – a pint of delicious guava juice for me because I was driving and a pint of ice-cold Sagres lager for my partner.

Then the rodizio system was explained. The red and green-painted block on our table was a signal to the barbecue chefs we could see moving between the tables. Put it green side up and we were ready to be supplied with meat. Flip it over and we wanted a break.

Then it was off to the buffet where we found a range of side dishes waiting to be sampled. There were different salads – radish, tomato, lettuce, potato – along with coleslaws, couscous, pasta and various vegetables.

Close by there potatoes in a mild and creamy cheese sauce, a bolognaise and a lasagne. It was all fairly standard fare apart from the deep-fried banana. That was a wonderful discovery.

Back at out table with plates piled – but not too high so we had room for the meat and didn’t look too greedy – we turned the block green side up and waited. Minutes later we were being offered spicy chicken. It was succulent and tasty.

We paced ourselves, enjoying the ambience of the restaurant and listening to the background noise of groups enjoying their food. Some were speaking Portuguese, that and the fact the restaurant was decorated and furnished simply, helped to make us feel we could easily have been in Rio rather than Wiltshire.

Churrascaria roughly means barbecue and refers to the South American-style of cooking skewered meat on a rotisserie. It originated on the campfires of the gauchos in southern Brazil. Rios serves 12 meats, from top rump beef steak and garlic steak, to pork loin with Parmesan, leg of lamb and chicken hearts, known as coracao de frango.

We sampled the beef, chilli chicken, pork loin, gammon and linguica Brasilica, otherwise known as Brazilian pork sausage. All were perfectly cooked, the beef on the rare side.

It turned out to be a barbecue banquet. There was no embarrassment about repeatedly turning the wood block over to red and the restaurant staff were friendly and attentive, so there was very little waiting for replenishment.

When we’d had enough meat we turned the block red side up for the last time and worked out whether to go for a dessert. We’d taken the precaution of not filling up too much with the side dishes, so there was a tiny space left. We filled it with a proper old-fashioned banana split and an ice cream sundae.

As we prepared to leave the table the waiting staff were singing Happy Birthday to a diner in one of the groups. As they finished most of the restaurant joined in the cheers and clapping. We departed into the warm Swindon night air and headed home.

The total cost of our meal was £65 including drinks and we found it good value.

Rodizios cost £19.90 on Tuesday to Thursdays and on Sundays, £22.50 on Friday and Saturday nights. A buffet only is £14.50 and children aged five to 10 pay £9.90 while under fives eat free. Desserts and drinks are extra.