Whether you’re meeting for the first time, already loved up, or mixing up your day-to-day routine, dates should be exciting, romantic and a little bit butterfly-inducing. Of course, when you’re with the right person you technically should have fun anywhere, but the right choice of venue definitely helps things along.
There’s a magical combination of factors that combine to create the perfect evening, and a night out at modern Italian restaurant Bucci lays all the right foundations for a next-level romantic rendezvous.
Let’s get the practicalities out of the way: Bucci gets points for the parking upstairs—a godsend if you’ve brought the car (driving round in frustrated circles draws attention to the fact you really should have sprung for an Uber, which can be quite the buzzkill). Location-wise, Bucci’s floor-to-ceiling open facade faces right out to the vibrant and (importantly) romantically fairy-lit James Street, giving a great vantage point for people-watching which, let’s face it, is always more fun with another person. The view of the incredible open kitchen is so expansive you can see right in all the way from outside, creating a sense of heightened anticipation before you’ve even set foot in the door.
As soon as you step inside it’s obvious you’re in an Italian restaurant, but it’s all very modern with not a cliché in sight. The sultry red walls, polished concrete and timber accents feel warm, but sleek and contemporary, and the lighting is ultra-flattering—well, it never goes astray, does it? If things are little awkward to start with, the three eye-catching giant chandeliers over the long group table are a conversation-starter; what look at first to be made of twig-like branches are, on closer inspection, actually huge clouds of tiny interconnected stick figures.
Either way, things won’t be awkward for long, with Bucci’s extensive and award-winning wine list offering a downright alluring selection of Italian, Australian and New Zealand wines and beers, plus a lust-worthy cocktail list guaranteed to get the convo well and truly flowing.
Bucci’s menu is the perfect date night fare: satisfying and innovative regional Italian food without the heaviness that can come from a traditional Italian feast. The focus is on using fresh, seasonal ingredients from local producers to create light and delicious contemporary dishes that you can still look cute eating (perfect if you don’t want to worry about an uncomfortably huge food baby, not slipping immediately into a food coma, or being able to, you know, move afterwards).
The food at Bucci has serious sex appeal, like the decidedly voluptuous grilled Hervey Bay scallops laden with lemon aioli and a verdant parsley crumb, or the nearly-too-pretty-to-eat tempura zucchini flowers oozing creamy smoked ricotta. Bucci’s legendary arancini balls change flavours with the season’s produce, like the current menu's spiced roast cauliflower with mozzarella centre, served with a squeeze of lime and a tangy dukkah for dipping. The Fraser Island spanner crab linguine is a knockout (evidenced by the outrage that erupts every time they attempt to take it off the menu), as are the succulent strips of black onyx Wagyu beef. The “boar-lognaise” (boar ragu with porcini, smoked speck and red wine, tossed with spaghetti) is rich and tender (we’ll spare you the gag about how your date should be too).
The dessert menu is so damn attractive you’ll be making come-hither eyes at it immediately. The black sour cherry, coconut and ricotta strudel with drunken dark chocolate sorbet is a lush and sophisticated option, otherwise, the Chocolate Nemesis cake (which takes its recipe from The River Café in London) legitimately lives up to its “best flourless chocolate cake ever” menu description. With its creamy, airy, almost ganache-like texture and decadent chocolate taste, it’s perfect for eating slowly and seductively (although I think we did it wrong, because we demolished it with zero chill in approximately 1.7 seconds).
While Bucci isn’t really the place for murmuring in hushed tones over a quiet dinner, the vibrant atmosphere and slightly cheeky Italian service will bring a sparkly vibe to your night, and you can definitely find a dimly-lit corner table if more intimacy’s what you’re after.
So now the scene is set, we’ve given you a head start—the rest is up to you.
Image credit: Judit Losh / Daniel Maddock