Intro to the Essential Restaurants in Shanghai

A new restaurant (with a self-proclaimed new ‘concept’) opens every week in Shanghai.

For the ‘newbie’, it’s best to make a simple Shanghai restaurant guide based on categories, and the classic favourites of the city. This isn’t a full on list but a guide as what to expect as a new arrival, and things to check out first. Websites in the title links.

Go here to read about restaurants with play areas inside.

The Classics

Element Fresh

restaurant with play area shanghai

Element Fresh started in around 2002, and is a real success story. They are everywhere in Shanghai and in other cities in China. So they are something of the ‘ultimate reliability’ for healthy and quick food.


Blue Frog

blue frog best kids burger

Blue Frog are the same success story – but with burgers. They have locations everywhere and good kids menus.


Pizza Marzano (Pizza Express)

best kids pizza restaurant shanghai

Pizza Express is from the UK, but changed their name to Pizza Marzano to sound a little fancy. Their genius is in the perfect level of price, decoration, quality of food and location. They are in all main malls.

Hotel Brunches

It’s pointless to list every hotel in Shanghai as we’re not a food website. But it’s good to know for newbies that the Shanghai hotel brunch is a weekend institution. All top hotels put on the most lavish brunch buffet that they can manage. Some of the best are the Pudong Shangri-La, Four Seasons Pudong, JW Marriott and Kerry Pudong.

Favoured Chinese

There are, obviously, tens of thousands of Chinese restaurants. Here are the main ones to try out first:

Di Shui Dong, 56 Maoming Lu

This place is loved by new arrivals, then no one goes there after their first year in Shanghai. But it’s a good place to get cheap Chinese food with a group.

Cha’s Restaurant

Reasonably authentic Hong Kong food in Shanghai. Just go outside of main lunchtimes as there are queues daily. Cheap and very satisfying. It’s at Sinan Rd near Huahai Rd, and also In Novel Place, B1 at Xingeng Rd by Tianyaoqiao Rd


Shang-Xi at Four Seasons Hotel Pudong

best date night shanghai

More expensive and not suitable to take young children to, this is one of our favourite Chinese restaurants in Shanghai. Truly excellent Cantonese food.


Not suitable for families in the evening, but great for family lunches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. An amazing dim sum set in a perfect venue for around 188 RMB to start. Dinner for two can easily get to 2000 RMB on ‘Date Night’, but it’s well worth it.


Bella Napoli

With two venues, both having weekend kids activities like pizza making and play for free, Bella Napoli is a must-try. Owned by an Italian family, the ingredients are all imported from Italy.

Gemma, Bar Centrale (135 Yanping Rd)

Both by the same owner, the pizzas in particular at these places are absolutely authentic and addictive. Perfect for families.

Villa Le Bec

There are several French places around the city, but Villa Le Bec is favoured among the French community.

Beef & Liberty

The best burger place in Shanghai. Others like CU2, Rachel’s or Blue Frog as above, but Beef & Liberty have consistently had the best beef (from Tasmania) for years.

Fancy / Date Night


date night

Started by Enzo Carbone several years ago, Capo is great for a very well-priced, reasonable meal of top quality food by the Bund.

Sushi Oyama

At the other end of the price scale – around 1,300 RMB per person – Sushi Oyama
is one of the best meals – Japanese – that you will have anywhere in the world. Pricery but wonderful.

The Bund

Mr. & Mrs. Bund, Jean Georges, Hakkasan, Sir Elly’s at The Peninsula – all of these will give an amazing dinner at a high price.

Shopping Malls packed with good restaurants for families

All of these are well worth a weekend mooch:

Kerry Parkside

ifc Mall

Shanghai Centre

Hubindao has NBA Playzone

The Place filled with indoor play areas

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