I must admit I had preconceptions about Babington House. The Somerset branch of London's ultra-trendy private members' club, the Soho House, I had it pigeonholed in advance as pretentious and self important.
I have rarely been more wrong. After just one night, I barely knew where to start lavishing the praise. Was it the luxurious spa and heated outdoor swimming pool? Was it our glorious two-storey coach house with wooden beams, a freestanding cast iron bath and exquisitely tasteful decorations? Was it the verdant grounds or the cosy fire-lit lounges, was it the light and airy restaurant or the sumptuous games room? Or was it the private cinema with its velvet chairs?
It was all the above, but a great deal more. Babington is as far from pretension or self-importance as it gets. This, more than the physical structure of the place is what won me over.
For a start — once you paid for the room, which admittedly don't come cheap — the price of eating and drinking is remarkably reasonable compared with most luxury hotels (one I visited recently charged £5 for a small tube of Pringles). Everything is at more or less high street restaurant prices, but of far superior quality.
This accords with the sheer generosity of the ethos. The night my wife and I spent eating burger and pizza at the central bar, chatting and laughing with the staff, was incredibly enjoyable and convivial. The bartender announced that she had invented a Banoffi cocktail, and unasked, made me one for free. Then I said I liked peanut butter, and she invented a peanut butter martini on the spot — again, simply for the fun of it.
A spirit of generosity suffuses the place, from the complimentary toiletries, water and cookies in the room, to the complementary afternoon teas and the amazingly good breakfast, the size of which saw me through the day. Every member of staff was unflinchingly polite and genuinely friendly. And to top off, I even got to see a celebrity, the artist Sam Taylor Wood at the next table to ours in the morning.
At the end of the all-too-short stay, I didn't merely like the place — I wanted to move in. That's how much it felt like home. And what higher praise can you give any hotel?
Babington House, Babington, Frome, Somerset BA11 3RW (+44 (0) 1373 812266; babingtonhouse.co.uk). Room rates start from £310 per room per night.