At home, The Bear’s Paw has always been a bit of a household name. It’s that beautiful pub nestled in the stunning countryside in a quaint village called Warmingham. Down the ‘back lanes’ in the middle of Sandbach and Middlewich, and not too far from Crewe.
My family has lived in Middlewich most of their lives, but I went to school in Sandbach, so gathered many friends from both towns, plus neighbouring Haslington.
When we were kids, The Bear’s Paw was a typical ‘pub’. It had a pool table, big screens showing the latest footie games and a children’s play area… complete with ball pool, can any of my local readers remember that?!
But my oh my, how times have changed. Having suffered three fires in the last 10 years or so, the place has bounced back, this time stronger than ever. It’s now a stunning (and I mean stunning) boutique hotel, AA dining award restaurant, go-to pub-grub spot for many locals and boasts the lovely, unique selling point that it’s completely dog-friendly throughout.
Gastro classics and more refined dishes
I went last week to try their food and drink and was not disappointed. I realised when perusing the menu that they seem to have struck a wonderful balance. That is, between traditional pub food (think fresh battered fish and chips, steak and cask ale pie and classic grills) and a more refined, finer-dining experience (like confits, smooth buttery purees, rich jus and tasty bisques) that instantly conjure up your favourite Masterchef memories!
Keen to try both sides of the offering, my Mum, sister and I ordered a mixture. Here’s how we got on.
Starters and Sides: including epic tiger prawns that rival those in Spain
To start, we shared three items from the nibbles and starters sections. The classic crispy pork crackling with bramley apple dipping sauce, the all-time favourite garlic ciabatta with melted cheese… and then something a little special which I swear made us feel like we were on holiday on a hot, Spanish island. It was their Tiger prawn pil pil.
We also tried the house Sauvignon Blanc; a Marlborough New Zealand called ‘Ten Rocks’ which I can’t recommend enough. And we also noted their impressive gin selection, and given my slight obsession with gin we tried a glass of the Monkey 47 garnished with fresh raspberries and citrus fruits, served with Fevertree tonic, and it was absolutely delicious.
Back to the food, as far as sharing combinations go, these three are a match made in heaven. The prawns arrive to the table sizzling and the scent of garlic fills the room and literally makes you salivate. There’s a gentle, spicy kick from the chillies too, so I was happy! The garlic ciabatta was a great accompaniment, and the pork crackling was some of the nicest I’ve ever tasted: the apple sauce works so well to cut through the saltiness too. Heaven!
Mains: from pub classics to something a little more special
For mains, Mum opted for a classic steak; ribeye with all the trimmings, hand-cut chips, Diane sauce and the biggest onion rings I’ve ever seen! She loved it, the portion size was generous, the homemade sauce was lovely and the onion rings could have fed us and another table, there were so many!
Hannah and I opted for something from the specials. Han had the roasted Gressingham duck breast which came with creamed potato, butternut squash puree, stem broccoli and a port jus. And I went for the Hake which was pan fried and served with saffron tagliatelle, fennel, cockles, chervil and a langoustine bisque. See what I mean about turning it up a few notches?
The hake was stunning, crispy and seasoned to perfection. The bisque was full of flavour and the fennel cut through it all so nicely. The duck was also delicious, even if Hannah did say the jus was a bit too rich for her liking. The creamed potatoes, puree and veggies were all spot on, and we ate pretty much everything!
Desserts: too tempting to refuse!
As we were full at this point, we had no other choice but to share the puds. Even though I don’t have a sweet tooth, I was tempted by so many of them. The two we decided on were both from the specials menu; The Bear’s Paw spin on the classic crem brulee was their dark chocolate version, served with fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Absolutely amazing.
The other was something a little different; white chocolate pistachio panna cotta, with pistachio-stuffed medjool dates, orange shortbread and Cointreau ice cream. Honestly, this was an absolute taste sensation and so different to the classic pudding offerings. The dates were coated in a light white chocolate and were just amazing, and the shortbread was so light, crumbly and delicious.
A very strong ending to a stunning meal. If you do visit I’d suggest you save room for pudding, even if it means you have to share! The coffees (we tried a flat white and cafetiere) were lovely too, each served with a little homemade chocolate fudge square!
I’m lucky to have such a lovely place on my doorstep, and I must say the service was great too. If you’re in South Cheshire, then this place should definitely be on your radar, or if you’re coming from afar then the rooms look like a great option too.