Eating Out: Stoop Your Head's seafood worth stopping for when you're in Skerries
Stoop Your Head,
19 Harbour Road,
Tel: 00353 01 8492085
WE STOPPED off in Skerries for three nights on our way back to Derry from Wexford, partly to see friends there and partly so we could boast we'd been on a two-centre holiday.
One evening, my wife and I got the chance to go to dinner by ourselves. After a full day at Tayto Park, we felt we deserved it and so, following a number of recommendations, we headed to Stoop Your Head – so-called because of its low doorways.
Not that we had any need to duck, as restrictions in place at time of eating meant there was no indoor dining. This actually worked to our advantage. On a still, warm evening, with the sun dipping gently behind us, a pavement table was just about ideal.
Stoop Your Head is one of a number of bars, restaurants and cafes that run towards the top of Harbour Road. Some have open terraces; all have pavement tables, with the result that it feels like they merge together, the lines between them almost completely erased.
This definitely felt the case when we first arrived. There's no booking at Stoop Your Head. You turn up, maybe around an hour before your preferred eating time, or happy to wait anyway, and leave your name and number with the staff who call you when a table becomes free.
In the meantime, they send you next door, to Joe May's pub, where the Guinness is good enough to make you hope the wait for the table will be a long one. With nowhere else to sit, we ended up taking our drinks to a bench outside another restaurant, where they were more than happy to let us wait even though we weren't going to be eating there.
Camaraderie, hospitality, friendliness, the realisation that we're all in it together: if that sense of co-operation hadn't been there before, it's certainly there now.
Despite the demand for tables, there was no sense of being rushed, so we lingered over our meal, enjoying the sight of boats bobbing in the harbour below us, paddle boarders weaving between them, rowing crews setting out for some evening exercise.
My first choice starter was unavailable so, the server's pencil hovering, I rushed into choosing the goat cheese. While not what I originally wanted, being maybe a touch heavy for a starter, it was nevertheless lovely: creamy cheese and salty ham combining nicely, and, although the salad leaves were rather limp, the chilli jam added welcome sweet and sharp flavours.
The prawns were well-cooked, a good bite followed by soft and yielding, with the surprisingly thick tempura batter providing a much more satisfying crunch than looks suggested.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the fish pie. It had a lovely, crunchy topping and was packed with a variety of fish, moist and flavoursome, sitting in a creamy sauce. The problem – for me, leastways – was the citrus herb flavours that dominated; just too strong for my liking.
The seabass and prawns, mind, I could eat every day. The fish was cooked to perfection, with a nicely crisp skin revealing delicate, soft flakes, and the prawns giving a mild sweetness to each forkful. And the balance of flavours in the juices was very impressive, never overpowering, always there just to support the main event.
We'd not planned on a pudding, but the views were so attractive and the atmosphere on the pavement so jolly and convivial, we ordered one as an excuse to linger. A good choice, as the sweet and crisp tarte tatin, made and presented with care and attention, ended the meal beautifully.
We'd been told Stoop Your Head had received gastro pub awards, and it's easy to see why. The food is full of flavour, the cooking skillful, and the presentation plain and unfussy. The setting is special, overlooking an active, lively harbour with, when dining outside, the added benefit of being able to enjoy people-watching as the world of Skerries passes by.
Baked goat cheese, crispy Parma ham, red onion chilli jam, rocket – €8.90
Prawn tempura, toasted sesame seeds, sweet chilli sauce – €8.90
Fish pie, citrus herb crust, baby new potatoes – €17.70
Duo of seabass and prawns, lime, garlic, chilli, and parsley butter, chips – €18.90
Tarte tatin, ice cream – €6.00
Guinness (pint)– €5.00
Sauvignon blanc (glass) – €6.10
Coffee – €2.50
Total: €74.00 (£63.36)