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Babington House

Babington House Drive

Miles from London, in a faraway land called Somerset, there’s a long tree-lined lane. It leads to a pocket-sized chapel, St Margarets, and just beyond it, the dour Georgian manor that is Babington House.

Part of the Soho House portfolio, I was expecting a snazzy English countryclub scene, but the other guests were mainly just local mums bringing the kids swimming, and a few other couples in for the weekend from London. But mostly, we had the place to ourselves.

Babington House St Margarets Sign

Babington House Lawn

Babington House Lawn Chapel

Babington House Cobblestone Path

We stayed in the Coach House, in a delightful room over two stories. Sweet touches were everywhere you looked – fresh flowers, vintage books with winsome titles, a silver tin of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Babington House Coach House

Babington House Do Not Disturb Door Soho House

Babington House Coach House Room Velvet Sofa

Babington House Room Coach House Dressing Table

Babington House Room Coach house Spiral Staircase

Babington House Room Coach House Loft Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Loft view

Babington House Room Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress Knit Bobble Hat

Babington House Room Bathroom Tub White Tile

Babington House Room Bathroom Clawfoot Tub

Babington House Room Robes Big Feet Little Feet

Babington House Room Coach House

Babington House Coach house room Flowers

Babington House Room Fresh Flowers

Babington House Eat Sleep Nap

Babington House Room Tea

Babington House Room Tea Treats

We couldn’t resist a spot of tea before heading outside for an afternoon of countryside pursuits – strolling the sprawling grounds, going for a bike ride, and then a swim.

Babington House Wellies

Babington House Walled Garden Green Grass

Babington House Walled Garden Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Walled Garden Spa Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress

Babington House Pond Rear

Babington House Backyard Tree Pond

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Bicycle Path

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Blue Dress

Babington House

Babington House Chapel

Babington House Chapel View

The outdoor heated pool is a perfect warm-up for these chilly February days.

We raced to see which one of us could shimmy back into their hooded robe the fastest, thick clouds of vapor wafting off our poached bodies like a pair of Chinese steamed buns!

Babington House Pool

Babington House Pool Steam Sun

Babington House Pool Swim Bun

Back in the room, we opened a bottle of champers, but before you could say “Pop, fizz, clink!” I was already in a clawfoot tub full of bubbles, where I had a good long soak before dinner.

The bathroom was stocked with shelves of Cowshed products, so no shortage of goops and creams to daub on.

Babington House Bathtub Clawfoot White Tiles

Babington House Bathtub Bubbles

Dinner was A-OK. Candlelight, dainty flowers on the table, the universal Soho House playlist audible above the din of the orangery. It felt a bit like going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, surrounded by other couples.  But we are far too diffident to canoodle publicly at the dining table. (As my husband likes to chide, “We’re English, not savages, Sarah!”)

Instead, we sipped our Babington martinis (amazing, with Noilly Prat, Tokaji and grapefruit oils, by the way) and nearly choked with laughter piling up a tower of mussel shells, a perilous house of cards of molluscs, which eventually gave way and sent a few shells toppling to the floor!

Most-meal pastimes, such as pool, were on hand, but we found we were happiest in the Study sipping Moscow Mules by the fire.

Babington House Lobby Mirror Flowers

Babington House Games Room

Babington House Study Fireplace Light

Babington House Study Fireplace Drinks

Yes, it’s a chain and not really a country club in the true sense, but Babington House is a great choice for a relaxing and romantic weekend.

I can say I was actually sad to leave. But London missed me, I had to get back! Lots more city adventures coming soon…

A Spitalfields Institution: Upstairs at the Ten Bells

Old Spitalfields Market is one of London’s oldest covered commercial markets; it’s been around since the 1600s. Each day it brings together traders selling fashion, food, antiques, and crafts. A surge of boutiques, shops and restaurants have bubbled up in the vicinity, regenerating this part of East London.

The Ten Bells sits right opposite the arched entrance to Spitalfields Market on Commercial Street. But it has a sinister history all its own. It dates back to 1666 and was the local watering hole of Jack the Ripper in the 1800s. Two of his victims used to frequent this old Victorian boozer, one of which was spotted drinking here just hours before her mutilated body was found around the corner. Not exactly the most romantic date night in London back in the day…

Ten Bells Chalk Board Menu

Ten Bells Outside

But fast forward 127 years, and people are still dying to get in. The upstairs restaurant is all the rage – classic East London gritty. You climb up the creaky battered staircase, beneath a very apt sign reading Live East, Die Young, and into a dining room lit with Tracy Emin neon and homoerotic photography.

Upstairs at 10 Bells Neon

Upstairs at Ten Bells Staircase

No thanks. I'd much prefer to Live West, Die Old.

No thanks. I’d much prefer to Live West, Die Old.

Ten Bells Upstairs

The menu is eclectic modern British. Predictable ingredients, but done in a cool, clever way.

Wood Pigeon tortellini

Wood Pigeon ravioli, crushed swede, consommé

Laugh Drink

Potato Gnocchi, Brown Shrimp, Crab, Girolles

Potato Gnocchi, Cornish Crab, Brown Shrimp

Ginger Glazed Cashew Ribs

Ginger Glazed Ribs, cashew nuts, pickled ginger

Yorkshire Rhubarb, Buttermilk Mousse with White Chocolate and Matcha Green Tea Crumb

Yorkshire Rhubarb, Buttermilk Mousse with White Chocolate and Matcha Green Tea Crumb

Ten Bells Dessert

Tummies full, we dashed fearlessly out onto the mean grungy streets of East London, the eerie glow of a Dickensian moon lighting the foggy night sky.

Ten Bells Silly Face

Spitalfields Moon

Christ Church, Spitalfields

Christ Church, Spitalfields

Outside

Spitalfields Fairy Goth Mother

Ten Bells Ed London Spitalfields

Ten Bells Telephone Booth

It was a thrill to visit the dismal, macabre heart of London’s yesteryear. It proves there are still places where the grimness of history yet clings, even if only in spirit, in the drear-cloaked night.