Hatted Collingwood restaurant Congress will serve its last pig’s head sanga on September 3. The slick brutalist-inspired wine bar opened by brother-sister duo Katie and Michael McCormack in 2017 is closing to make way for a fresh new restaurant whose identity is yet to be determined.
Front-of-house pro Katie McCormack, who managed Congress and helped build its reputation as one of Melbourne’s best new-wave wine bars, passed away in February aged 39 from cancer. Following that tragedy and Katie’s inextricable influence on Congress’s identity, Michael feels it’s time for a fresh start.
“It’s been a tough decision for me, to be honest,” he says. “Do we take a break, have a breath and then continue on with the name and same concept? We just thought we loved what Congress was and we don’t want to dilute that.”
Michael says he is already in talks with a number of (unnamed) Melbourne hospitality groups to operate the space but is also considering his business, Milieu Hospitality, installing something fresh there. He says the beauty of Congress’s minimalist, concrete-forward fit-out is that it lends itself to lots of different ideas.
“If we were to partner with someone, we’d be looking to give someone an opportunity,” he says, adding that it’s a dream scenario for first-time operators who won’t need to spend a cent on the fit-out.
Collingwood locals will have to be patient, though, as Michael doesn’t anticipate the new venue will open until early next year. Current head chef Zach Tinsley will not be part of the next chapter. His desire to pursue his own projects was “part of the decision making process,” Michael says.
Congress was the first Milieu Hospitality restaurant; Richmond’s Future Future and Fitzroy North’s Lagotto followed.
The two McCormack siblings created a unique model where Michael’s property development business Milieu would build well-designed apartments in desirable locations, while Katie created restaurants at ground-level that added extra pulling power.
Milieu is working on several developments around Melbourne with Brunswick East’s Lygon Street build its next major hospitality project.
For its final month, Congress will serve a menu of greatest hits, such as the kangaroo pastrami, Dutch spice cake and, yes, the pig’s head sanga. Run, don’t walk.
Open Tue-Fri 5.30pm-late, Sat noon-late
49 Peel Street, Collingwood, 03 9068 7464, congresswine.com.au