The best restaurants for dates in Shanghai

Make the sparks fly at the best restaurants to take a date in Shanghai

Photograph: Huy Phan on Unsplash
You both swiped right and now you're looking for the perfect first date spot. Or you've booked in the babysitter and now are frantically planning for date night. Whatever the situation, you're in need of a restaurant that's romantic and makes the sparks fly. You know the best eateries to go with friends, but what about when it's just the two of you? From polished gastrolounges to cosy kitchens serving natural wine to dining rooms with sweeping views of the Lujiazui skyline, these are ten of the best Shanghai restaurants to make sure you really ace your date.

The Cannery

With gleaming faux copper ceiling tiles and low-slung lounge seating, The Cannery hits exactly the right vibe of polished and classy, minus any pretention or stiffness. Equally as sophisicated but accessible is the food, largely seafood-focused and inspired by the Pacific-Northwest of North America, and the excellent roster of cocktails from the space's central bar that will keep the conversation flowing.  

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1107 Yuyuan Lu
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Lost Heaven on the Bund

Critics' pick

This iconic mainstay on the Bund offers a different brand of romance than your usual candlelight-cum-molten-lava-cake situation. Drawing on the flavours of Yunnan province, dishes are bright and electrifying and the mood, with striking decor in red and gold, racy and sensuous – exactly the kind of energy any date needs.

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17 Yanan Dong Lu
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Mercato

If you believe in aphrodisiacs, then the black truffle pizza at this chic, unfussy Bund-side Italian joint from Jean-Georges Vongerichten should be at the top of your list. Luscious and sensuous, it practically vibrates with the intoxicating aroma of truffles, on its own making Mercato an ultimate date destination. Candlelight, rustic, roughly hewn wood tabletops and stellar views across the Huangpu notch the romance up to 11.

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3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu
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The Commune Social

Cosy and intimate, The Commune Social has a charmingly romantic vibe that's perfect for amourous couples (or couples-to-be). Sit side-by-side at the kitchen bar and watch the team in action together, huddle up over get-to-know-you conversation at a tucked-away table or, on a warm day, have a leisurely brunch in the courtyard. The kitchen turns out inspired small plates meant for sharing and thrilling desserts that will make you fall in love whether you like it or not.

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511 Jiangning Lu

HIYA

Perched on the 27th floor of the hip Shanghai EDITION, this izakaya-inspired modern Japanese restaurant by Jason Atherton boasts soaring Lujiazui views that seem set to get hearts racing. Everything at HIYA, particuarly the sleek bronze spiral staircase, oozes class and glamour while keeping it light-hearted – a balance reflected in the contemporary approach to Japanese classics. Want to show your date that you're not above getting your hands messy? Order the 'temaco', a hands-on mashup of sushi and a taco.

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199 Nanjing Dong LuOnline booking

Mr & Mrs Bund

If you're going to go classic, then really go classic because if the French don't know romance, then who does? From decadent truffle bread to an exceptional lemon tart, Paul Pairet's upmarket but fun French eatery translates to the ideal date. Windows look out onto the lit-up skyscrapers across the river while servers buzz around dropping off Pairet signatures like Picnic Chicken and Black Cod 'In The Bag' to the hum of lively conversation. On a budget? Go for an after-hours date on the weekend for the MMB late-night menu.

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18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu
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Bird

This intimate wine bar and kitchen on Wuyuan Lu shines for those times when all you really want to do is project that you're laidback and effortlessly cool (because you are, aren't you?). The breezy eatery is just that – with casual bar seating, interesting wines and playful, small plates, laced with Japanese and Shanghainese influences, all emanating a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere that sets the tone for any promising date. 

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50 Wuyuan Lu

D.O.C.

At D.O.C, you can practically hear Dean Martin crooning 'that's amore'. Distressed concrete walls, handpainted vintage Italian adverts and candlelit tables at this Italian spot transport you out of Shanghai, and its excellent pizzas only further that illusion. Sip on red wine and Aperol spritzes to really set the mood with the object of your affection.

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390 Dagu Lu
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El Willy, Bund 22

Never will you hear the word 'sexy' thrown around as much as at El Willy – even the menu describes the vegetarian dishes as sexy. What could be better than that for a date? Romance comes in many forms, and here it's lively and fun. Keep things steamy over top-notch tapas, paella and sweeping views of the Pudong skyline at this buzzing, longstanding Spanish concept. 

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22 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu
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Taian Table

Treat your man or lady like the true royalty they are with a night out at Taian Table. Tucked at the end of a sleepy street near Jiangsu Lu, this elegant Michelin-starred restaurant feels like your own private secret to share. Seats curve around an open kitchen where chefs work assiduously to serve you and your special someone a regularly changing tasting menu that unfolds leisurely over the evening. If you need a date to remember, this is it.

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Zhenning Lu

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