Incessant travelling can do much for the soul, but sometimes little for precision memory. The fact is: I can't quite remember what I was doing aged 25, but I do know I wasn't managing a group of restaurants with the energy of a finalist on The Apprentice. But this is exactly the degree of commitment – minus the worrisome weeping and gnashing of teeth – that you'll find displayed by Mark and Matthew Warburton, the latest generation of Warburtons to take the helm of a trio of family pubs in Wiltshire.
In these cash-strapped times, businesses are making the most of what they've got and the "restaurant with rooms" concept is thriving. Before posh-nosh pubs were the norm, a restaurant with rooms was simply a place for travellers to rest their road-weary, ale-heavy heads. Today this category has leapt beyond inn or country house hotel, to a destination restaurant that has added on a few rooms, usually equally as desirable as the culinary offerings.
The food served in this ivy-clad pub has long been drawing people beyond the nearby sights of Bath and Badminton, but now its new rooms are also worth a detour. Opened in 2009, they were recently awarded five stars by the AA. The property sits right on a B-road, a few miles south of the M4, so a rural hideaway it is not. However, the six new rooms, constructed from local stone and flanked by pergola-covered walkways, are still more than just a place to lay your head. Each has a wine-themed name and contemporary, functional furnishing made sensual with plush fabrics and rich colours.
This new addition to the early 19th-century pub looks a bit raw but should weather into a harmonious extension of the main building. The pub itself is more traditional, with fireplaces, beams and well-worn tables and chairs. The food is, if not gastro exactly, refined: prawn and smoked salmon timbale or anchovies on toast for starters, followed by lemon sole with crab stuffing or rack of lamb. Add two glasses of wine and dinner for two comes in at around £60. And if you're stuck for wine pairings, Matthew, the younger of the two sons, is a trained sommelier and designs the menus for this and the family's two local sister pubs-with-rooms (The Crown and The Northey). The boys' parents, who founded the pub 27 years ago, are still instrumental in everything from pulling pints to picking fabrics, making this a proper family business.
The hotel is in Wiltshire's wealthy heartland. Drive five minutes' east and you come to Castle Combe, named "the prettiest village in England" by an American glossy magazine in the 1960s and which has suffered from coach-loads of tourists ever since. It is, however, darn pretty and has been the setting for numerous period dramas and the 1967 film Doctor Dolittle.
Badminton (the site of the annual horse trials) is five minutes' drive while Westonbirt and the National Arboretum is 20 minutes away – home to 18,000 trees from across the world.
A testament to the family's love of wine, each of the bedrooms is named after a renowned French label, with a blurb on the back of the door explaining more about its origins. My room was Ruinart, one of the oldest of the French champagne houses. The rooms are a classy act for the price (up to £115), defined by functional furnishings with suede throws and velvet cushions, hardwood floors, gentle colours (muted greens, matt silvers, warm greys and browns) and plush bathrooms with rough-cut travertine tiles.
Rooms are compact but subtly different in colour and size. Some have pieces of antique (or antiquey) furniture or a sculptural lamp, ensuring they remain the warm and comfortable side of business-like. Slick amenities include Tassimo coffee machines, flat screen TVs, iPod docks, free internet and bottled water.
The Old House at Home, Burton, Near Castle Combe, Wiltshire, SN14 7LT (01454 218227; ohhcompany.co.uk ).
Double rooms start at £87.50 per night, including breakfastReuse content