‘FEED a cold, starve a fever’ as the old saying goes, and what better way to fill up on food than with some good old-fashioned pub grub?

I had begun to feel under the weather as my turn on the food review rota approached and I initially feared that I may have to face the near-impossible challenge of describing in up to 1,000 words how a meal tastes and smells while both of those senses were completely incapacitated by the dreaded lurgy.

Fortunately, on the day of the dinner itself, the worst of the cold had passed and my taste-buds didn’t feel like they were covered in clingfilm any more, which was something to be thankful for.

I had decided to visit the Runner after fond memories of lovely Sunday dinners with housemates there sprang to mind and I’d realised that the Adver had not reviewed the pub since it was refurbished and renamed from the Running Horse several years ago, so this seemed like the perfect time to head over.

Swindon Advertiser:

Not wishing to spread my virus too widely, I ventured out alone and entered the spacious and historic tavern which has served innumerable customers since it was first constructed in 1821 and then rebuilt by Arkell’s in 1891.

Some of this history is evident on the decorations and framed pictures hanging on the walls and pillars though it mainly looks like any other gastropub on the inside.

As I arrived, I found that I was far from the first person wanting to tuck into a delicious dinner there and the air was full of chatter – not packed with people but busy enough to create a steady background murmur of conversation and clinking cutlery.

Some punters sat out in the sunshine with a brew while children laughed and played on the climbing frame. It will be much busier this time next week, I thought, when the Swindon Duck Race returns and the Runner’s beer garden becomes an ideal spot to watch the river run yellow with rubber.

After a quick glance at the Sunday lunch menu, I ordered the topside of beef (10.95) and a Diet Coke from the friendly bar staff before returning to a small table that felt out-of-the-way due to its pillar-side location but the pub’s layout is open enough that this still offered a good vantage point for the rest of the Runner.

Swindon Advertiser:

A group of guys got a round in while one family opted to avoid Sunday dinners entirely and enjoyed meals from the normal menu, which offers dishes like hand-carved Wiltshire ham and eggs with chunky chips and peas (£9.95), spring veg and minted pea Quinotto (£9.95), handmade asparagus and mushroom pie (£10.75), and a trio of sausages and mash (£11.95).

My food arrived so quickly that I got caught slightly off-guard while making ‘subtle’ review notes in my phone about the music playing over the speakers. A football match on the big-screen TV had been muted so the soundtrack to my Sunday lunch was a mixture of cheesy 90s pop which I hadn’t noticed on previous visits. It had an oddly-transportive nostalgic effect on me – was I sat in a Swindon pub or on the benches at a Newport primary school disco?

Swindon Advertiser:

The meal looked good and I was eager to tuck in, though my sole disappointment was a distinct lack of gravy - “Tragedy!” blared the speakers and I was inclined to agree.

Maybe I’m just greedy and had been spoiled by my Nan’s homemade Sunday dinners which were positively swimming in the stuff, sometimes to the point where none of the meat was actually visible and the vegetables almost bobbed along like buoys. Here, by comparison, the tide had gone out and the large Yorkshire pudding had been beached on the generous slices of beef, which had absorbed much of the gravy and left little to go around.

Aside from this minor gripe, I had a pleasant hour in the Runner and really enjoyed my meal, with its tasty beef, flavourful dollop of stuffing, soft Yorkshire pudding, crunchy roast potatoes, bite-sized sausage, and assorted vegetables which were, well, it’s difficult to say anything interesting about carrots and cauliflower, but they were fine too. I left full, satisfied, and suddenly feeling an awful lot better than when I'd walked in, -though next time I must remember to ask for more gravy.