We met recently with Caroline Fletcher-O’Connor of Ballyin House, Lismore, the latest member of Taste Waterford.
Caroline gave a tour of her home and explained why Afternoon Teas were chosen to showcase this period property and local food and drink producers.
The first sight of Ballyin House is not just the impressive façade as you enter the driveway, glance right and the unmistakable sight of Lismore Castle also greets you.
Ballyin House, a Georgian property built in 1820; has a notable history. Patrick and Elizabeth Foley were the first residents of Ballyin House as Patrick was the Manager of Ballyin Mill. The Foley Family were very prominent in Lismore at the time.
Patrick’s brother, Edmund; first introduced the ice houses to Lismore which were used for storing food and fish – salmon was regularly supplied to London.
There is a direct connection with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) and Ballyin House, as his mother Mary; was a Foley. In his 20s, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle regularly visited Ballyin House and his Lismore relations, and even lined out for the Lismore Cricket Team. Unfortunately, they were beaten by the 25th Regiment and also by Cahir.
In the 1930s, the Anson family were residents, with Lady Clodagh Anson being the daughter of Lord Waterford, 5th Marquess of Waterford and Curraghmore House.
Bringing us to the current date, Caroline now enthuses much about the history, as the present, which is what makes this Afternoon Tea experience so special.
She explained: “Our family have always loved afternoon teas. They are a great chance to catch-up, relax and enjoy great food – we’re passionate tea drinkers!”
So, when Caroline and family became custodians in 2016, Caroline’s mind was firmly set on recreating this experience in Co. Waterford, as well as making a family home.
“I have a background in hospitality having worked with the Flynn Family of the Flynn Hotel Group and the Murphy family of the Dunraven Arms Hotel, Adare, which has given me a great grounding as to what people should expect when they visit.
“Our first trial run was the 15 February 2020 and a great success. Covid then delayed matters, but we were determined and had our first actual sitting on the 29 December 2021 during Covid.
“We only have one sitting per table, so guests can enjoy the food, take in the surroundings, and have plenty of time to relax.
“It’s our home and we love showing guests the quirky, period features that make this bespoke afternoon tea experience so unique. There is a serving hatch in the “Miss Anson Suite” which used to connect to the kitchen so that the servants would not have been seen, and an elaborate hook for a chandelier using candles in the centre of the “Fletcher Suite”.
When entering the property, guests are greeted by a welcoming hallway, and in winter, the unmistakable smell of an open fire – setting the tone for what is to come.
There are two rooms available – “The Fletcher Suite” and the “Miss Anson Suite”, both reflecting current and past residents.
Both rooms are elegantly styled with choice pieces from Caroline and her family, and regular trips to France where she cleverly eyes furniture and accessories which complement the period home.
Once guests are seated – this is when the quality of Co. Waterford’s producers, Caroline’s passion, and her Ballymaloe trained chef are showcased – Caroline herself also attended training at Ballymaloe.
A homemade seasonal and local three-tiered array offers a visually exciting and delicious selection of tasty treats of both savoury and sweet delights including the scone selection.
Just some highlights include a gin sorbet working with Blackwater Gin from nearby Blackwater Distillery in Ballyduff, cucumber sandwiches with “a special twist” working with Barron’s bread from Cappoquin, and a salad on choux pastry using meat from the renowned McGrath’s Family Butchers in Lismore.
Another locally sourced choice includes scones and tartlets made with Knockanore Cheese and seaweed from The Sea Gardener of the Copper Coast.
Ballyin House also boasts a plentiful garden of organic produce, which also features on the menu. Caroline explained: “We harvest our crops of apples, gooseberries and blackcurrants which go into our menus and jams and jellies. We also have a herb garden.
“Along with free range eggs, we grow potatoes and other crops in the orchard, and this year our very old fig tree is producing figs – another exciting challenge for a future menu.
“A speciality of Ballyin House is that we also make our very own clotted cream. This is a long process, but totally worthwhile and our guests really enjoy it”.
And what’s next for Caroline and Ballyin House? “I love working with my daughter, Kate, and our wonderful team. Exploring new menus is also very exciting – so we’ll be busy planning, planting and harvesting over the coming months and making lots of produce from our garden.”
Ballyin House host Afternoon Tea the first Saturday and Sunday of every month. Dates are advertised via Instagram, Facebook, or contact Caroline: 086 8757 850.