A restaurant-cum-wine bar, Congress has set up shop on Peel Street, on the corner of Wellington Street in Collingwood, at the base of an apartment block.
Its catchcry is "wine and espresso until late" — two important Melbourne traditions that could be, perhaps, extended to a third tradition: sating your hunger till late, too. Luckily, all three boxes are ticked here. The new wine bar is the brainchild of twins Michael and Katie McCormack. Their family is no stranger to hospitality, either — sister Astrid co-owns the award-winning Fleet Restaurant.
What should you put on your plate when you venture here? It should probably involve the kangaroo pastrami with cultured cream and fried onions ($13), a pig's head and green mustard "sanga" ($7), or lamb sweetbreads with grains, beer and gremolata ($23). Dessert-wise, Congress has a standout Dutch spice cake on the go, served with malt custard, tamarind and pecans.
When it comes to filling your glass, it might take you a little while to pick through the well-travelled wine list (complete with Spanish, German and French offerings). If you prefer something local (and funky) look to one of the natural bottles — there's everything from Jamsheed to Dormilona and Adelaide Hills' leading lady Lucy Margaux. There are some fresh cocktails, too, including a yuzu-spiked spritz.
And finally, what to note for the future: Congress will be hosting a monthly series called the Brutally Early Club. Pre-breakfast 6:30am power meetings that are popular in Berlin, New York, London and Paris, the events will be landing in Melbourne for the first time this year. To find out when the meetings will be taking place, keep an eye on the Congress Instagram.
Images: Kate Shanasy