The Cheshire plain, dotted with magpie cottages, black and white cows grazing in the lush pastures and circumscribed by Crewe, Church Minshull, Middlewich and Sandbach, boasts a watery paradise beloved of nature watchers.

The Bear's Paw is set on a small island formed by the River Wheelock, close to the many sites of Special Scientific Interest formed by the fascinating flashes or small meres that have sprung up due to subsidence caused by salt mining.

After a day spent in the fresh air, what better destination could there be than the Bear's Paw, its red brick Victorian façade glowing in the warm light of a spring sunset? Rays of light dance through the many windows of this surprisingly large Cheshire pub and hotel, owned by Nelson Hotels, which includes outstanding hotels, inns and restaurants, all located in the nicest parts of the county. We were looking forward to sampling the delights of the kitchen here, as previous experience has shown us the highly professional food and beverage director of operations Neil Armstrong, nurtures some extremely talented chefs running each Nelson group restaurant.

Great British Life: The Bear's Paw head chef Scott Cunningham . The Bear's Paw head chef Scott Cunningham . (Image: John Allen Photography)

Scott Cunningham, head chef , has a long history with the group. He started his career at the Pheasant at Burwardsley and moved across to the Bear's Paw for its re-opening after a catastrophic fire in 2008.

He has been given free rein with the food here and it is an understatement to say he has stamped his personality on the ever-changing menu and elevated good, comforting food to heady heights – I had the most crazily delicious braised beef suet pudding I have ever tasted, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The menu sings of the freshest, finest ingredients available, sourced locally wherever possible. It is difficult to choose, simply because there is temptation everywhere. But choose we must and so to our table.

The menu of alcohol-free drinks is becoming ever more of a temptation so we opt for one as a mocktail: the Gunner, a gingery combination, which was absolutely spot on. An Aperol spritz, a generous combination of Aperol, prosecco and soda settled me down for some serious contemplation of the menu. Seasonality allows the kitchen to be creative, and this menu has the feel of springtime.

Great British Life: Pan-seared scallops, smoked aubergine caviar, chorizo and crisp serrano ham.Pan-seared scallops, smoked aubergine caviar, chorizo and crisp serrano ham. (Image: John Allen Photography)

We launched ourselves enthusiastically into a quartet of starters, beginning with the most beautifully presented, crispy skinned sea bass, crab mayonnaise and fennel, apple and radish salad. The texture and taste of the skin made a significant contribution to the flavour of the dish and the salad was so much more than a pretty garnish. Chosen for its delicate flavours and contrasts of cool, tasty crunchy salad vegetables, this showed a superb command of perfectly presented food and promised great things to come.

The signature twice-baked three-cheese soufflé appears on the menu at many of the Nelson restaurants. As always, it was delicious. The standout starter for us both was the confit chicken, smoked cheddar and leek croquette, topped with a fried hen's egg and celeriac remoulade served on a small puddle of veal jus. This was a triumph of sophisticated savouriness and subtlety. We rounded this off with a well-balanced and beautifully presented pan-seared trio of scallops accompanied by a quenelle of lightly smoked aubergine caviar and a crispy salty contrast of chorizo and serrano ham.

Great British Life: Roasted cod supreme, truffled cauliflower, saffron cocotte potatoes and sauce vierge. Roasted cod supreme, truffled cauliflower, saffron cocotte potatoes and sauce vierge. (Image: John Allen Photography)

Moving the main courses and staying for a moment with fish, the supreme of cod was a treat for the senses. The visual impact of this dish had immediate appeal. The delicate scent of the saffron cocotte – small, barrel-shaped potatoes placed on a purée of truffled cauliflower and sprinkled with sauce vierge – gave this dish, like the preceding dishes, the sense that warmer weather is on its way.

Scott rings the changes with inspired use of the specials menu. We were lucky enough to taste the honey-roasted duck breast cooked to perfection alongside a wafer-thin pasta roll containing a flavourful herby rillette of duck confit and accompanied by a delicious smoked onion purée and heritage beetroot. Another choice and equally delicious, would be the haunch of venison with a beautifully flavoured crust and a perfectly tender, juicy, medium-rare interior surrounded by creamy mashed potato and dotted with pickled cranberries, crowned by a red wine-poached parsnip and a red wine jus. The duo of pork, a roasted fillet and a piece of glazed belly with crunchy crackling atop the presentation along with Granny Smith purée, creamed potato and cider jus looked as good as it tasted. The most delicious presentation of rabbit loin and a tarragon-scented chicken mousseline, wrapped in prosciutto, a confit leg bon bon, sprinkled with tender baby vegetables and the most divine tarragon café au lait sauce was a joy. Those with a lesser appetite would revel in the crispy sweet chilli beef salad. With candied cashew nuts and a sophisticated presentation, this was also delicious. The modestly described braised beef suet pudding was a revelation. A thin suet crust pastry contained meltingly tender, flavour-packed feather blade of beef. The creamed savoy cabbage, smoked short rib, roasted carrot and red wine jus that came with the pudding were far more than the sum of its parts and for this alone, I'll be back. Cooking of this calibre, at remarkably modest prices is worth crossing a county for.

Great British Life: Prosciutto-wrapped-rabbit loin, spring vegetables, confit leg bon bon, tarragon-scented chicken mousseline and cafe au lait sauce. Prosciutto-wrapped-rabbit loin, spring vegetables, confit leg bon bon, tarragon-scented chicken mousseline and cafe au lait sauce. (Image: John Allen Photography)

We paired this gastronomic tour de force with two delicious wines, one white and one red. The Adobe Reserva Chilean Gewürztraminer was aromatic and not too sweet with the typical notes of honey and lychee, and the Blackbird Sangiovese from Australia was a good choice to complement the variety of dishes we were enjoying.

Ruth Richmond, the pastry chef, has been with the company for some 10 years, and at the Bear's Paw for eight. During this time she has contributed massively to the menus and is integral to this happy team. We started with her most recent pride and joy, and it was a delight. A harmonious combination of two classic flavours, the dark chocolate and raspberry entremet was a sophisticated, gleaming cylinder of chocolate wizardry, which when broken into revealed layers of sponge, chocolate and tart raspberry gel. It came with a refreshing raspberry sorbet and delicious white chocolate and pistachio ganache, sprinkled with fresh raspberries and pistachios. Another creation, the key lime cheesecake, glazed pineapple and pineapple gel would be a good choice for those wanting a tart and light contrast to refresh the palate and the baked egg custard slice with its wafer-thin mille-feuille of puff pastry and sweet and sour poached Yorkshire rhubarb with a dollop of mascarpone cream, was a grand finale to round off this delicious meal.

Great British Life: Baked egg custard slice, poached Yorkshire rhubarb, mascarpone cream. Baked egg custard slice, poached Yorkshire rhubarb, mascarpone cream. (Image: John Allen Photography)

The staff at the Bear's Paw warmly welcome all-comers. As we arrived, there were two families with children, eating at nearby tables. They were all chatting sociably on all manner of subjects, eating a variety of meals, and it was a joy to be in the same room. Equally, we saw many well-behaved dogs and their owners, enjoying a well-earned rest after exploring the Cheshire lanes and byways. The Bear's Paw is a paradise for dog lovers and owners. This is a hotel that pays a great deal more than lip service to the phrase 'dog-friendly'. Every beautifully appointed bedroom has space for dogs; they are welcomed everywhere in the hotel and there is an extensive dog menu for four-legged friends who deserve a treat.

The mellow, honeyed oak panelling and wooden floors with well-chosen artwork, local photography and prints all add up to a remarkably relaxing, comfortable, stylish and hospitable atmosphere at a place where we will make a welcome return, with our dogs in tow.

Great British Life: Every man, woman, child and dog is warmly welcomed at the Bear's Paw, Warmimgham. Every man, woman, child and dog is warmly welcomed at the Bear's Paw, Warmimgham. (Image: John Allen Photography)

Starters from £6.95 to £11.95

Mains from £14.95 to £35.95

Desserts £7.95

Aperol spritz £9

Mocktails £6.75

Adobe Reserva Gewürztraminer Chile £35

Blackbird Sangiovese Australia £48

Wines by the glass from £5

The Bear's Paw, School Lane, Warmingham, Sandbach CW11 3QN 01270 526317,