BLINK, and you could quite easily miss it.

But if you are lucky enough to notice The Bear's Paw, set back off the main road through the small village of Warmingham, you're in for a treat.

This isn't your usual crumbling inn, jaded by years of neglect. In fact the case here couldn't be more opposite.

Individually designed rooms greet every customer, a rustic bar and dining area command much of the space on the ground floor and there is a pleasant beer garden out front...perfect.

The Bear's paw has a story to tell.

It has been part of village life since the 19th century, but was snapped up by family-run Cheshire-based company, Nelson (Northwest) Hotels Ltd, in 2008 and became the subject of a massive renovation programme.

Then catastrophe struck. After being bought in March 2008, the inn was closed for a refurbishment of the ground floor. work was all-but-complete when in May, a fire, sparked by an electrical fault, ripped thorough the roof space and destroyed much of the building.

For many the disaster would be been an insurmountable setback, but the determined owners set about a massive £2.5 million revamp, stripping the building back to its walls and rebuilding the pub pretty much from scratch.

The labour of love was a year in the making, but finally, in May 2009, The Bear’s Paw reopened.

And the area is much the better for it. The welcome we received when we arrived was informal, but warm and friendly. In fact that pretty much sums up the whole eating, sleeping and drinking experience. The Bear's Paw has the quality, in terms of its rooms, food, location and staff, of a boutique hotel one might encounter in the likes of London or Paris.

But it doesn't have a cold metropolitan feel to it; to the contrary.

Staff spend time chatting to visitors about the area, or which of the local delicacies on the menu they can personally recommend; they even have an in-depth knowledge of each of the hotels' 17 rooms - which, by the way, are of an excellent standard.

Ours boasted a four poster king size bed, with a sitting area, flat screen TV and good sized bathroom which had a standalone bath and rain shower. It had a view of the local church and fields; rooms at the back of the hotel command vistas of the rolling hills beyond.

We could have quite easily entertained ourselves without leaving the bedroom, but the surrounding Cheshire countryside, nearby towns of Sandbach and Middlewich, and The Bear's Paw's own alluring beer garden proved to much to resist.

And so it was there we spent our first evening, sipping glasses of chilled white and sampling the gastronomic delights of the chef. The menu is varied and freshly cooked, the food delicious and well presented. The management have an informal ordering process, which sees customers either order at the bar if they want immediate service, or relax at their tables until a member of staff is available to take their orders. It works well, if you take it for what it is.

Breakfast is a similarly laid back affair, with juices, fresh fruit pastries and cereals on self service, and the hot food taken by order.

Rooms at The Bear’s Paw cost from £90 per night for a standard, £105 for an executive and £130 for a superior. The rates include bed and breakfast.

So if it’s relaxation, good food and a little bit of luxury you are after - at a price that won’t break the bank - you can’t really go wrong at this hidden gem.

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