EVERYBODY thinks this job is absolute breeze. Pick a place to eat, stuff yourself silly, bang out 800 words and don’t forget to send in the bill and expenses to the paper.

I mean, what’s not to like?

Sometimes it is just that – a breeze. Sometimes the food is just so wonderful, the taste buds are entranced and the words just flow

And sometimes the food is awful, so irredeemably bad that the words cascade just as easily.

It’s those extremes that make it easy, when it almost writes itself.

Trouble is, the majority of meals out these days are not like that. They are not amazing. They are not terrible.

The Northern Echo:

They are often just serviceable. They may be just…well, um, a bit tasty.

There, I’ve said it. I’ve used the word which hitherto has been banned from this column. Colleagues who have contributed here over the years have been told that if they can’t think of anything else to say about what they have eaten they might as well not bother.

And some of them, having discovered that waxing lyrically about the very essence of a steak pie, chicken parmo or sticky toffee pudding is actually quite difficult, have decided to do just that – not bother.

The Northern Echo:

But we (that’s the Royal ‘we’ of course) are made of sterner stuff. After 16 years we continue to sally forth on your behalf, enduring the smörgåsbord of broadly acceptable and unremarkable scran, ever hopeful of unearthing a gem - or a disaster.

We arrived at the Farmers Arms at Brompton on Swale (in truth nearer to Catterick Bridge than anywhere else) unsure of what we might find. It has just re-opened after a major refurbishment by its pubco owner the Punch Group – refurbishments which tend to end up looking just a bit too corporate rather than characterful.

To be fair, the new-look Farmers Arms is cosy enough, spick and span, well-lit and with a mix of seating and a big central bar. Wall-mounted flat-screen tellies are everywhere which is never a good sign in my book but we liked the big reproductions of large scale maps of the local area on some of the walls.

Food is ordered at the bar from a menu which is probably very similar to the fare provided at the thousands of Punch Taverns around the country. It is plain and simple pub grub.

Some of it was quite err… tasty.

The Northern Echo:

Son Calum had never tried a parmo before and this chicken version (£9.95) was the calorific colossus we all know and maybe love. He certainly did, managing to finish it along with the chips and salad that accompanied it. And that followed a bowl of minestrone soup which was fine.

Friend Robert had kicked off with nachos (£4.50) and they were OK – plenty cheese, plenty tortilla chips – and the fish and chips (£9) that followed passed muster too.

Sylvia thought her tempura king prawns starter (£5.95 for just three of the critters), served with some garlic mayo and salad garnish, about par for the course. But her chicken curry (£9) main course brought back not altogether pleasant memories of those Homepride cook-in sauces which I understand, amazingly, you can still buy. The sauce was hot but that was really all she could say about it.

My salt and pepper calamari (£5.75) starter was pretty horrible thanks to the coating which was overwhelming salty - to the exclusion of every other flavour. The salad garnish was no more than an afterthought and the sweet chilli sauce was rendered tasteless by the salt.

The Moroccan lamb burger (£12.95) was better with some gently spicy heat in the mix. The bap that sandwiched the burger was a bit too soft so that as a construction it fell apart when picked up. Which meant eating it with a knife and fork – something that never feels quite right.

Every main dish we ate came with chips and they received universal acclaim. Quite chunky, crisp and dry, they did not quite hit the heights of those we raved over at Fletchers Farm Shop near Great Ayton a few months ago – but they were not far behind.

I finished my meal with a Bakewell pavlova which was attractive to look at and not unpleasant to eat – sharp coulis, sweet meringue and a soft Bakewell crumb.

Service was limited – food has to be ordered at the bar – but reasonably swift, friendly and efficient.

The bill was a just £88.80 with quite a few drinks, albeit soft ones, in the total. Filling four people – two of them young men with massive appetites – for that amount has to be considered good value.

The Farmers Arms

Gatherley Road, Brompton on Swale DL10 7HZ

Tel: 01748 818062 Web: thebromptononswalefarmersarms.com

Open for food: Mon-Thurs - noon-3pm, 5-8pm; Fri-Sat noon-9pm; Sun noon-4pm

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 6, Service 7, Surroundings 7, Value 8