AS SOON as you walk into The Crazy Bear, there is a sense of warmth - and it's not just because of the constantly roaring log fire (though that helps). The hotel was originally built in the early part of the 16th century and the beamed ceilings, timber flooring and squishy leather sofas help set up the cosiest of atmospheres. In the bar, champagne is served on draught (that's the way to do it), as well as real ales and homemade flavoured vodkas and cocktails are on the menu along with Galway oysters (delivered daily from South Wales). On a hot summer's day, venture out on to the terrace to sip those cocktails in the sun.
One of the main reasons to stay here is for the food. There are two restaurants - an a la carte and a Thai brasserie - both quite small but well-designed. The a la carte restaurant has two AA rosettes for outstanding food and there's an extensive fish menu offering hungry guests more oysters, lobster and tuna. If that sounds just too healthy, indulge yourself with the tarte tatin of banana filled with passion-fruit sorbet.
Breakfast is not quite so appetising. Served at around 10am - "the later the better" - you choose either English or Continental, but if your idea of Continental is hot croissants or a nice Danish, you'll be disappointed; it's just cereal and toast.
Check-out time is very relaxed - we left reluctantly at around noon after an altercation with the Power Shower which the plumber eventually fixed - but, if you want to stay at The Crazy Bear, don't be too relaxed with checking in. I had to book a month in advance to be sure of a room.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The Crazy Bear is on Bear Lane, Stadhampton, Oxfordshire OX44 7UR (tel: 01865 890714, fax: 01865 400481)
Transport: Stadhampton is about eight miles, or approximately 10 minutes' drive, from Oxford, near junction seven of the M40. From Oxford city centre, a taxi costs around pounds 13.
ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?
The seven bedrooms are all en suite but range in size from tiny to titanic. All are extremely bright and modern; carpets are zebra print, the walls brightly coloured, and fixtures are hyper trendy - very un-B&B. There is also a private cottage which sleeps six.
Beds: Once you get in, you won't want to get out (depending on who's in there with you). Duvets are crisp and white, pillows are large and snug.
Freebies: Not much to take home with you but the bathroom toiletries are Molton Brown.
Bathroom: Varies in each room. The smallest starts with the basics (Power Shower, toilet and sink), the larger rooms boast Japanese plunge pools. Large, white towels are provided.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
TV: Portable TV in each room with the usual terrestrial channels. Considering that the hotel brochure (which took two years to design) advertises "equipped with state-of-the-art vision and sound", I was surprised how basic the TV was - no satellite or digital channels.
Radio: Clock radio - again standard and basic.
Newspapers: Not available in rooms, but there is a selection of papers for you to browse through over breakfast.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The smallest room costs pounds 50 single, pounds 60 double occupancy. The largest room costs pounds 80 single, pounds 100 double. I stayed in the smallest room, the only one available at the time, but probably the least value for money. The cottage costs pounds 240.
I'm not paying that: Go for the Sunday-Thursday offer; one night's accommodation with breakfast, dinner in the a la carte restaurant or Thai brasserie (excluding drinks), and a half-bottle of champagne for pounds 120.