Here in the village of Lisbane, close to the shores of Strangford Lough, one of County Down’s prettiest little treasures is to be found at the thatch-roofed Old Post Office, which dates back to the 1840’s.
Having lain derelict for many years, this listed building was caringly restored and it now makes a charming home for Trevor and Alison Smylie’s tea rooms and gift shop.
With many years of experience as a baker and pastry chef in Australia and the U.K. under his belt, Trevor is now responsible for producing all the mouth watering scones, gateaux, pies and tarts which can be enjoyed in the three atmospheric tea rooms, each with its own cosy peat fire.
And, in fine weather, eating outside is always a treat, whether in the courtyard garden or by the lily pond where the gentle scent of the nearby herb garden wafts on the air.
As well as breakfast, teas, coffees and light snacks, wholesome lunch dishes such as salmon and asparagus quiche or chicken and broccoli bake with salad are available (with a big slice of tangy lemon meringue pie to follow, perhaps), and a take away service is also offered.
Behind th tea rooms, with its own entrance off the car park, you will find a hidden gem, as the Smylies also operate a speciality food shop. Here, along with many other carefully selected items from near and far, you will find some of Northern Ireland's very best baked goods: breads, cakes, biscuits and cookies - and those famous pies... Only the best ingredients are used and the quality of both the seasonal fruit tarts and savoury ones (packed with meat - steak and stout, juicy mince, or chicken) is superb. A call here to stock up is worth a lengthy detour!
And, while it is mainly for their good home cooking that regulars flock to the Tea Rooms, it’s also a place to drop into for an unusual gift, as they stock a good range of Irish products (many of them locally made) in the shop, and also paintings by local artists.