IN BABINGTON HOUSE, a Georgian manor in the Mendip hills, a crew- cut barman was throwing a cocktail shaker around, mixing a Caipirinha as two spike-haired waifs grooved silently to Massive Attack on their designer bar stools. The trip-hop music shook the U-shaped steel bar. On a black-leather sofa on the corner, a gaunt, high-cheekboned actor- type dressed in black was shouting across his cigarette smoke to his mini-skirted blonde companion.

Outside, all was Constablesque tranquillity. The view from the French windows in the lounge was across a sloping lawn to a tree-lined lake where a lone swan swam, arching its neck into the water in a sublime "n". A little pied wagtail danced on the lawn by the windowsill.

Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House, the London private members' club where the beautiful people go, opened Babington House last year, after refurbishing what had been a disused Somerset mansion. Everything is consciously designer, from the Gucci handbags thrown aside by the Philippe Starck garden furniture to the swirling glass toilet-brush holders in the rooms. The two swimming pools, one indoor, one out, are surrounded by 10 gigantic hammocks which look like condor's nests. The manager who greets you after you negotiate the imposing, tree-lined driveway is impeccably polite and efficient, and dressed in ripped jeans and a T-shirt.


Babington House, Frome, Somerset, BA11 3RW

(01373 812266).


The hotel will pick you up from Bath train station (25 minutes away), or issue you with detailed directions by fax or on a CD for your car.


Our room was a two-level loft suite, decked out in wood, its colours all late-Nineties slate greys and sharp blues. An L-shaped sofa big enough for four people lying end-to-end occupied two sides. Wooden stairs with metal banisters led to a loft housing the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in, under two skylights, with eight down pillows making it feel like sleeping on one of those puffy cumulus clouds. Breakfast in bed arrived five minutes after being ordered: home-made muesli, thick grainy bread and an array of exotic fruits cut, peeled and arranged on two Conranesque steel trays.

At the bar, there were no crisps; instead, we had thin pizza base, dusted with parmesan and oregano, with a balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil dip. In the former stables, now a high-ceilinged, low-light dining room, we had lamb with oregano, fresh and aromatic, and fusilli with baby plum tomatoes and red basil, luscious and sweet.


There were four telephones in our room and more than 152 channels on the TV (I lost count after the "Manchester United Channel"), with a hi- fi and DVD system and three remote controls. Guests paced around the lake, chatting on mobiles.


The better rooms in the Coach House cost pounds 240 per night for non-members, a two-course dinner for two is pounds 70, and the sublime cocktails are pounds 8 a go. Not cheap, but a delightfully original way to spend your money.

Darius Sanai