Centennial Plaza in Gulfport headlines itself as the “Crown Jewel of the Gulf Coast,” and it may well be. Its Spanish Mission Revival style buildings are returned to their former glory and it boasts 48 acres scattered with beautiful Live oak trees, 152 rooms at the Oasis Resort and 63 luxurious hotel rooms at the Grand Centennial, a huge fountain, pools, splash pad, lazy river and more. And then there is the Blue Marlin Restaurant, and I like this restaurant a lot.
In the fashion of the day, the owners could have opened a steak house, or the new brand of restaurant that offers everything from sushi to pizza and tacos, but no, the good folks at Centennial Plaza did the right thing and opened a seafood restaurant and a good one at that.
The interior is cool and comfortable, and transitions well with the stark white Spanish Mission exterior. I visited this building many years ago when it was empty, smelled of concrete dust and all I could think of was the ghosts of the nurses who lived in it when it was their dormitory. What a contrast. The blue marlin murals add a welcomed splash of color. You are going to feel comfortable and welcomed here.
I am going to tell you what Chef Robby Holmes and I had for Saturday brunch, but please be aware that the menu changes daily, based on availability, as it should for a restaurant serving a made-from-scratch menu. If you are buying fresh produce, meats and seafood, the good stuff, what is out there is constantly changing. If you are buying frozen goods from a big shipper, then you have a constant supply. See what I am getting at?
We started with oysters Rockefeller, and that is an easy dish to mess up. They can be overcooked and dry in a heartbeat. Chef Robby commented immediately that he liked that they used whole leaf spinach (meaning fresh) and not chopped, and they were seasoned with Herbsaint, the great French liqueur. It was a nice touch. So, we were off to a nice start. Moist, well-seasoned and delicious.
Both of us were in the mood for a veggie second, so we went for the fried Brussels sprouts. Another test for the kitchen, as this veggie can be overcooked and over seasoned by the unaware and inattentive. These were served with spiced pecans, shaved Parmesan, and a Steen’s cane syrup vinaigrette. All three of these accompaniments can be overdone, not to mention I hate overcooked veggies of any type, but these were spot on. A little sweet, a little crunchy, just right.
Chef Robby was interested to see if the Bordelaise was good, so we went for the Eggs Bordelaise and were, again, well pleased. It was served with smoked bacon back, eggs on toast, mushroom bordelaise and hollandaise sauce, fresh fruit and fingerling potatoes.
Prices were moderate, as you might expect for such an elegant setting, service was good, and the food was delicious. If it hadn’t been so hot, a lazy stroll around the beautiful property would have been the perfect way to end this visit to such a beautiful place. Give this place a try, it’s great for a Saturday or Sunday brunch, but any evening you are in the mood for upscale seafood, this is the place. Crown Jewel of the Coast, that just might be spot on.
Where: 200 E. Beach Blvd., Gulfport
Dinner hours: 4-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Brunch hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday