Just steps from the beach, housed in a historic, fully restored Spanish mission-revival-style building that was once a nurse’s dormitory, The Blue Marlin is an upscale seafood restaurant that has become one of the Coast’s premier fine-dining spots.
With marble countertops, linen-draped tables and large windows showcasing gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico and the many live oaks throughout the property, The Blue Marlin provides the perfect atmosphere to spend an intimate evening with someone special or celebrate with friends.
Located in Gulfport’s Centennial Plaza, which formerly was home to the Veterans Administration Hospital and sat vacant for many years until the property was transformed into 48-acre resort complex in August of 2019, The Blue Marlin offers the freshest catch crafted into exquisite, contemporary seafood dishes.
“We try to take Southern dishes and put a new spin on them,” says General Manager Ron Craven. “There’s a little more originality than what you might normally find around the Coast. We try not to have things that are smothered in sauce so you can taste each ingredient. Each ingredient stands alone, but (they are) formulated to taste great together.”
I can attest to this, as everything my girlfriend, Lauryn, and I had during our visit was exceptional. While sipping our expertly made specialty cocktails, our meal began with Executive Chef Monique Hoard presenting an appetizer of pan-seared sea scallops. Made with a mushroom duxelles and served atop a light mushroom purée with a crispy pancetta, the perfectly cooked dish had a fresh, earthy taste. We both knew quickly that we were in for a treat that evening.
Up next, a fantastic barbecue shrimp-and-grits dish featuring Gulf shrimp tossed in a lemongrass barbecue sauce, crispy grit cakes, caramelized onions and a bit of beurre blanc with micro cilantro. It was hard to hold back from licking the bowl.
“We get everything in fresh; nothing is ever frozen,” Craven says. “Once you taste the food, you will understand. Everything is made in house — every sauce, every aspect of the dish. It comes in fresh, and it’s put out fresh. The menu is fresh because it changes often. That’s kind of our thing; it’s got to be fresh.”
The Blue Marlin’s ever-changing menu is printed each day to reflect the fresh ingredients and made-from-scratch dishes. One such item, the baby iceberg salad, is tossed in a red wine vinaigrette with spiced pecans, pickled green pear, honey goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes and crispy prosciutto. The textures of the salad, along with the hint of sweetness, complemented each bite perfectly. Lauryn said it would be worth a return visit just for the salad alone.
Chef Monique’s 16 years of cooking experience definitely were on display when serving her main entrees: two varieties of fresh fish. Lauryn’s was a pan-seared, oven-roasted halibut with fingerling potatoes, hearts of palm and arugula tossed with a little bit of chard and shallot vinaigrette, then topped with black-eyed pea relish. Mine was a striped bass served atop a corn puree and sprinkled with roasted corn, fingerling potatoes and jumbo lump crab meat, drizzled with delicious pecan butter. Both were perfectly cooked and absolutely delightful.
Our meal ended with The Blue Marlin’s most popular dessert: the rustic sea salt caramel and white chocolate bread pudding. A decadent bowl of bread pudding, smothered in a white chocolate and salted caramel sauce, was more custard-like than bready and tasted absolutely heavenly. Walking it off afterward and watching Centennial Plaza’s 25,000-gallon dancing fountain choreographed to music was the perfect way to end our visit to such a beautiful place.
The Blue Marlin is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for dinner and Sundays for brunch. Reservations are encouraged through Open Table. An upstairs event space is available for your next social gathering.
Leave yourself time to stroll around and take in the numerous murals and pieces of artwork created by local artist Marty Wilson, who spent a couple of months before the restaurant’s opening adding splashes of color throughout.
IF YOU GO
The Blue Marlin at Centennial Plaza
200 E Beach Blvd., Gulfport