Saatchi & Saatchi’s former carpark in The Rocks has been transformed into a distillery, bar, and kitchen. Meet Hickson House, a paean to gin offering tours, tastings and popping cocktails beneath soaring ceilings and sparkling chandeliers. It’s the creation of Mikey Enright and Julian Train of the Barrelhouse Group, which operates other venues The Duke of Clarence and The Barber Shop.

The hero of Hickson House is its gin range, Hickson Rd Gin.

“We’ve been planning the launch for two years,” says head distiller Tim Stones (ex-Manly Spirits). “Because of the pandemic, I spent one-and-a-half years distilling in my garage. Once I made a batch, I would drop one bottle at Mike’s and another at Julian’s (Covid-safely, of course), then we’d discuss them over Zoom.”

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This remote collaboration resulted in three drops. The London Dry is a classic infused with angelica and orris roots and, for an Aussie touch, old man saltbush. It goes well in a Martini. The Harbour Strength follows the same recipe, but with greater intensity and a higher alcohol content (57 per cent to the London Dry’s 40 per cent). The Australian Dry is a locally inspired concoction of liquorice root, orange peel, oolong tea, native thyme, finger lime and aniseed myrtle.

All three are created on site in custom-made copper stills. To see them in action, take a distillery tour, which includes a tasting. It’ll cost you $40, $5 of which is redeemable on a purchase at the impossibly cute, Hobbit-sized cellar door.

At the bar, Raphael Redant (ex-Stitch) transforms the trio of house gins – alongside 600 other spirits from around the world – into G&Ts, Martinis, and signature cocktails. Go local with the Native Martini (Australian Dry, dry vermouth, native thyme oil, and pepperberry tincture), or zingy with the Gimlet (Australian Dry, blood lime, lemon-scented gum and Geraldton wax distillate). There’s also a lengthy international whisky list and a neat collection of wines.

Overseeing the food menu is head chef David Penistone (The Duke of Clarence).

“We think of ourselves as a step up from a gastropub,” Enright tells Broadsheet. “The menu is accessible, modern Australian, with small and large share plates, as well as individual mains. People are welcome to come along and eat and drink as they please – whether they want to join friends and feast all evening, or sit on their own and have a main.”

Like the drinks, the eats are scattered with native ingredients. Share plates include salt-roasted prawns with charred lime and chilli, flour-dusted squid with finger lime and pepperberry, and kangaroo tartare with horseradish, Vegemite and toast.

Mains range from a chicken schnitzel made with a signature seven-spice to a full-blood Wagyu rump with smoked bone-marrow butter and jus or Davidson plum and fig chutney.

Tasked with turning the car park, which is part of the heritage-listed Metcalfe Bond Stores, into Hickson House was UK interior designer Sara Mather and Sydney’s Steel and Stitch. This required preserving the 100-year-old building’s striking brickwork, wooden beams and grand spaces, while creating room for 150 guests. On the ground floor, a spectacular wall of illuminated gin bottles backdrops the bar and dining room; on the mezzanine level is the more intimate High & Dry bar. Seating ranges from roomy bar stools to timber chairs to cosy lamplit sofas.

“It’s long been on our mind to start a distillery,” says Enright, who has spent decades working in the gin industry. “We got lucky when we found this space. We fell in love with it straight away.”

Hickson House Distilling Co
6 Hickson Road, Dawes Point
(02) 8999 3852

Tue to Sat 4pm–midnight
Sun 4pm–10pm