When thinking about the world’s great culinary neighbourhoods, Kings Cross doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Unless you’re Bec Paton. She’s the creative director and publisher of Naughty x Nice: Recipes and Stories from Kings Cross, a book of recipes and tales from the likes of ACME, Gastro Park, Buffalo Dining Club and Eau De Vie.

“Kings Cross has never exactly been a darling of the media,” says Paton. “And since the advent of the lockout laws there has been a lot of negativity in the press.” As longstanding and well-loved venues began to close, Paton was motivated to spotlight the positive changes happening in the area.

“We felt there were a lot of great things happening and wanted to celebrate the businesses that were thriving – both those that had been here for many years and those that were new.”

Naughty x Nice paints the Cross as a place of gastronomy, mixology, arts and community, but doesn’t shy away from the seedy underbelly the area is perhaps better known for. Recipes for Caffe Roma’s gnocchi al tartufo and Buffalo Dining Club’s pork ragu pasta sit alongside stories of late-night debauchery and 1940s prohibition (the original lockout laws).

The name of the book comes from the idea the area can be a safe haven for some and a nightmare for others, depending on your experience. “Love it or hate it, there is something irresistibly magnetic about the Cross,” says Paton.

Each recipe is ranked on a sliding scale from very naughty to very nice.

All the drinks land at the naughtier end, such as Bar Brose’s Sour #3, a punchy mix of pineapple, tangelo bourbon and bitter rhubarb, or World Bar’s Star Gin Cup, best served in a teapot. Balance them out with the “so nice” wasabi crab from Sunrise Asian, or The Butler’s octopus with burnt apple and sea herbs (“extremely nice”).

A portion of proceeds from the book will be donated to Women’s Community Shelters, an organisation providing direct relief to disadvantaged homeless women by establishing new shelters in partnership with communities.

Naughty x Nice: Recipes and Stories from Kings Cross is available here

womenscommunityshelters.org.au