Why Red Light Districts are the New Dining Hot Spots

Despite, or perhaps even because of the NSW Government’s controversial lockout laws imposed on Sydney’s nightlife, there’s a new determination emerging in Sydney's Kings Cross that has propelled it from its seedy past and redefined the area as the city's Gastronomical centre. 

Great food, a destination with personality and world-class cocktails are always worth celebrating!

Where Sydney's Kings Cross was once a hub for sex, drugs and organised crime, it has since evolved into a place where people get their kicks from original and innovative dining options.

Take for instance one of Kings Cross’ most popular small bars, The Powder Keg. The swanky gin bar, which boasts 210 specialty gins and takes its design cues from the prohibition era, has emerged as a culinary leader in the city.

The Powder Keg's former head chef has since started at the world-renowned Noma restaurant in Sydney. However, before he left he started something magical in the Potts Point kitchen: While surfing Sydney's northern beaches by day, Elijah Holland would forage for menu ingredients in the dunes afterwards - a habit which he turned into gold at The Powder Keg. 

Image: State Library NSW

Following in those footsteps, today’s menu is what you’d describe as English Gastro pub with sophistication. And yes, the gin influence is infused throughout. Care for Quail Scotch Egg in Smoked Potato Mash with Pancetta? Or perhaps a dozen Gin & Tonic Sorbet Oysters? What’s that? Thirsty? Then you should try the Gun Powder Gin, consisting of a Gun Powder smoked tea, spiced syrup, citrus and Fernabranca served in a smoking cloche, on a bed of leaves.

The Powder Keg’s owner Grant Collins has fought hard to maintain a positive image for the safe and forward-focused bars and restaurants of the area.

“Hey, guess what? Some of the world’s coolest Red Light districts have created the very best food and drinks," he says. 

“The modern, manufactured, sterile environments are like a concrete jungle versus the history, the grit, the character and the soul of a place like Kings Cross.

"We are celebrating what we are achieving here, now and we have great joy in what we do. There’s an amazing local spirit of support.”

Image: Supplied/The Powder Keg

Here are some of the red light districts around the world - and where you should grab a bite! 

Potts Point/Kings Cross, Sydney, Australia

With winter approaching, Sundays will involve live music on the terraces and even local gatherings on Thursdays amongst the neighbouring bars and restaurants such as the cosy Parsons Bar & Kitchen, ACME, Eau De Vie and the area's newest speakeasy style bar, Jangling Jacks.

Meatpacking District, NYC, USA

New York’s Meatpacking District has gone from its blood and guts past to one of the globe’s gastronomical hotspots. Spice Market, Buddakan, The Standard Grill, Del Posto, STK, Bubby’s, The Boom Boom Room… you could spend a lifetime – and a lifetime’s salary  and still not touch the sides of this ever changing landscape.

Kødbyen, Copenhagen, Denmark

It is bustling with miniature corner cafes and forward thinking restaurants with a major emphasis on sustainability and returning to menus based on raw, fresh, creative, bespoke ingredients. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, be sure to check out the biodynamic restaurant BioMio, or, of course, Noma (if you can get in!).

Soho, London, UK

London’s Soho district isn’t to be forgotten either. Resurrected from its dank and dirty past, Soho is now buzzing with eateries and undoubtedly some of Britain’s most impressive dining and drinking destinations. Dine out at Michelin starred Yauatcha, or try The Social Eating House, 10 Greek Street and cap it all off with a Rose Petal Martini at Hakkasan - it’ll blow your socks off!

Gastown, Vancouver, Canada

Taking the concept of grit and grime a step further, is Canada’s Blood Alley in Vancouver. Hidden within the dark historical laneway of Gastown, the street is rumoured to have earned its name from either the local butcher, or because it was the site of public executions. Either way, The Beef Tongue Salad and the wine selection at The Salt Tasting Room in Blood Alley will be a taste sensation you’ll never forget.

So, the next time you toss around ideas of where to dine and drink, be brave, have faith in the creators of greatness, support the venues who are working themselves to the bone to produce amazing food and drinks and remember that a little grit and a dodgy past can be a wonderful combination for a great future!


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