Never let it be said that this column is elitist.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to go the fanciest, poshest places around to sample Michelin-starred tasting menus, wine flights and all that palaver.

Renowned establishments like the Black Swan at Oldstead where the bill was £250 (and this was a few years ago so God knows what it is now), the food sublime but the experience not wholly wonderful for reasons we can’t go into now. Or the splendour of Grantley Hall where a two-course Sunday lunch with two glasses of wine topped £100.

But mindful of the times we live in, we like to "keep it real", making sure that the majority of places we visit are comfortably within budget for the average reader.

So last Saturday night we fetched up at McDonalds – the new one on the approach to Northallerton from the north.

The Northern Echo: Heading for the golden arches of Northallerton's new McDonalds Picture: MALCOLM WARNE

It opened a few weeks’ ago and it’s fair to say there was a degree of excitement among many in the county town. This excitement could be divided roughly in two – between those who thought its arrival represented the end of civilisation as we know it and those who said it’s about time, we’re fed up of schlepping through to Leeming Bar to get our fast food fix.

It’s certainly a long time since we last went to a Maccie-Ds. The days when we had children for whom a trip there was a treat are long gone. Of course, there are a grandchildren but somehow we have largely dodged that responsibility. That’s what parents are for.

I do remember a desperation visit to the great rival Burger King a few years back. It was desperate because it was the only thing open late at night in a motorway service station so beggars couldn’t be choosers. The meal sank like a stone into my guts and festered there for the remaining three hours of the car journey and gave me indigestion which seemed to last days.

The Northern Echo: The new McDonalds off Darlington Road in Northallerton Picture: MALCOLM WARNE

I also remember the first time I went to a McDonalds. It was in the 1970s and a US friend took me to one of the first to open in London. Recall of that experience is decidedly fuzzy other then a sense of let-down. What was the fuss all about?

You can tell I’m doing my damnedest not to appear a snob. It’s tough, I’ll confess.

On the positive side, the McDonalds offer these days is very different from what it was back then. No doubt in response to concerns about the high levels of fat and sugar in a typical Maccies meal, there are now quite a few low-calories, "healthy" options.

There’s a spicy veggie wrap (365 calories), there’s a grilled chicken and bacon salad (185) and the plain hamburger weighs in with a relatively modest 251 calories.

But you know, deep down, the McDonalds corporate heart isn’t really in it. For example, the side salad which I selected in preference to chips to counteract the number of calories (643) in my Philly Stack was laughable.

A box of tired rocket, a few rings of red onion, two slivers of cucumber and one slice of tomato seemed pretty pathetic and the sweet, syrupy balsamic dressing pretty disgusting. Yes, I know balsamic vinegar is sweet and syrupy but this was off the scale.

When we had to ask for a fork with which to eat said salad, it was clear they don’t shift many of them. Our young waiter looked at us as if we were from outer space.

Enough of being sniffy – and some of you will no doubt say it serves me right. You don’t go to McDonalds to eat salad.

So no complaints about the burger. The standard beef patty isn’t large by modern artisan burger standards but it tasted okay and there was two of them in the stack. Nobody will ever convince me of the merits of the processed cheese slices but the cheesy sauce was creamy and err…creamy.

The Northern Echo: Our McDonalds meals - total bill, £18.67 Picture: MALCOLM WARNE

Sylvia enjoyed her McCrispy, a variation of the standard chicken sandwich with a crispy breadcrumb coating and iceberg lettuce and black pepper mayo in a "sourdough-style" sesame-seed bun.

She had some chips which were like McDonalds chips. Which is quite amazing really. How do they ensure that in 40,000 restaurants worldwide they always taste exactly the same?

The milkshakes are less of a mystery. Not much milk it seems or vanilla flavour for that matter but loads and loads of sugar. My vanilla version had an incredible 366 calories.

We also shared some chilli cheese bites – four of them, slightly cheesy, slightly chilli (231 calories).

Read previous Eating Out reviews here:

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I’m sorry to bang on about calories but they are on the menu and one can’t help but clock ‘em – and count ‘em.

We had opted for table service when we ordered using one of the touchscreens. No extra charge but service amounts to having your tray of ordered food brought to you. A smile would have been nice.

The bill was £18.67. The calorie count was 2,152.

McDonalds Northallerton

7 Radcliffe Court, Thurston Road, Northallerton DL6 2LZ

Tel: 07518 496315 Web:

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 5 Service 5 Surroundings 5 Value 5