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Let’s begin by talking about the butter-poached lobster. Liberated impeccably from its shell, the lobster meat is plated to recall the real thing, tail stretching the length of the plate, claws reaching out to each side. The shockingly tender shellfish is blanketed with a hash of crisp sweet corn and salty, savory nuggets of chorizo, and the whole swims through a shallow pool of melted butter.

Jumbo lump crab dish | Photograph by Anthony Tieuli

It is at once simple and luxurious, classic and innovative. And, as such, it is precisely at home on the menu at The Rudder, the new North Shore eatery from Barbara Lynch, the renowned chef behind highly acclaimed and award-winning Boston restaurants including No. 9 Park, Menton, and B&G Oysters. 

We can’t go much further without acknowledging that Lynch has recently made headlines not for her culinary achievements, but for allegations of inappropriate behavior in the workplace made by former employees. Lynch denied the claims and, as the controversy simmered, continued to work at bringing her newest restaurant to life. 

Barbara Lynch | Photograph by by Michael Prince

The current incarnation of The Rudder is Lynch’s reimagination of a longtime Gloucester institution. Founded in 1957, The Rudder went through different owners and chefs over the decades, but remained a popular local haunt on Rocky Neck, an historic neighborhood known for its quirky character and profusion of art galleries and studios. However, by the time Lynch, who has lived in Gloucester since 2016, took over the restaurant, it had been closed for three years. Lynch has, of course, put her own stamp on the space. The red clapboard exterior and the white-and-wood interior have been painted a uniform deep marine blue. Sconces cast a low, warm light, and original art lines the walls. 

At the same time, glimpses of The Rudder’s former self show through in the rustic beams across the ceiling, the long wooden bar, and the wide windows on the deck opening to views of picturesque Smith Cove. Tucked away down a narrow, dim stairway, the restaurant has always been a cozy, welcoming sort of place, and so it remains.

The seasonally evolving menu reflects the same mix of tradition and reinvention from beginning to end. The cocktail list makes this melding explicit with its two columns, “The Classics”—including Manhattans, gimlets, and martinis and “Rudder Cocktails”—the Hades, for example, combines tequila, Campari, grapefruit juice, agave, Italian soda, and citrus juices to subtly balance bitter, sour, and just a touch of sweet.

The bread basket that arrives just moments after you’re seated comes with the traditional accompaniments of oil and butter. But the shallow bowl of vibrant green olive oil and assorted olives is bright and herbaceous; the molded round of densely creamy Vermont butter is drizzled with black truffle honey. 

Hades cocktail | Photograph by Anthony Tieuli

On a recent summer evening, the appetizer lineup included a classic steak tartare, and a salad of succulent tomatoes topped with lightly dressed and generously sized chunks of lump crab. The star of the starters, however, was Babette’s Butter Soup, a famed item from the Menton menu brought back to life at The Rudder. What arrived at the table was a low bowl, piled with scallops, clams, lobster, and shrimp, crowned with shimmering black pearls of caviar. From a teapot, the server then poured a generous swirl of soup that is just slightly thicker and silkier than pure melted butter. The result is every bit as decadent as it sounds.

The luxurious touches continue into the main course with options like roasted beef tenderloin with pommes robuchon, beef jus, and chanterelle mushrooms, and saffron shellfish stew, with clams, mussels, lobster, scallops, and shrimp mixed in with tomatoes, white beans, and black olive croutons. A recent menu update added in a lobster roll and succulent pork atop native peaches and creamy semolina. 

The potato gnocchi, firm but light, was served in a creamy Bolognese sauce with a surprisingly spicy kick. The golden-cooked halibut came with a rich rouille sauce atop a hearty, bold ratatouille. 

The dessert menu promises to offer up a rotation of classic favorites like chocolate souffle, cherry-topped johnny cakes, and seasonal fruit crostata—the rhubarb version we enjoyed featured a thick sour-sweet filling enveloped in a pastry crust that was tender, with an unexpected but delightful earthy flavor. 

Our server couldn’t share what ingredient added the extra dimension—guess we’ll just have to go back and eat some more to figure it out. 

73 Rocky Neck Ave., Gloucester, 351-217-1265,