Creswick – a quiet town just north of Ballarat, Victoria – was ravaged by fires in the late 1800s, with only a single building left standing – the Leaver’s Hotel.
Over the following century, the Leaver’s Hotel lived many lives; it’s been the Town Hall, Leake’s Hotel, an Ice Cream Parlour, a bank and most recently, Bob’s Cosy Corner Cafe.
The current owner, Chantel Leaver, took over the property seven years ago with a new idea in mind; leaving behind the Cafe, Chantel wanted to take the Leaver’s Hotel a new, but the somewhat familiar route: a wine bar.
“We took over the property seven years ago and thought we would try and bring it back to life, naively thinking it would take three or four months of renovation… seven years later, here we are,” Chantel explained.
Over the past seven years, Chantel made a variety of changes to the building itself, but unlike those who came before her, she was not looking to improve it by making it all new – she wanted to take the building back to its roots.
“The changes made in the last few iterations of the building have all been stripped back to reveal the original character. We have exposed the original stone walls and shingled ceiling, installed a period leadlight and oak bar, and have hopefully created a space where you can feel the energy of a previous generation.”
So what can you expect when you first walk into the new Leaver’s Hotel? Chantel says to expect the unexpected.
“We feel a bit like a diamond in the rough. When people step into the venue it’s like stepping into another place in time. It’s lush, cosmopolitan, eclectic, and cosy.”
Behind the scenes of the beautiful front of house, Chantel hired local renowned chef Benjamin Sage Francis to establish a unique and satisfying menu, using local sources to attain their produce. Visitors can expect to find a varied and tasty selection, ranging from small tasting plates and charcuteries to salmon fillets, grilled duck salads and house-made ricotta gnocchi, as well as a variety of vegetarian and gluten-free options. All options pair perfectly well with the locally crafted beer and wine.
The Odessa is more than a simple wine bar, however, and caters to all ages; they’ve fostered a family vibe on Sunday afternoons with board games and chess sets. Chantel and her staff have aimed to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and comfortable, allowing people to come in alone and leave with new friends.
Chantel is far from finished developing Odessa, and when we asked her what her plans were for over the summer she was more than happy to elaborate.
“What I’d like to do is get some bands set up in the back, so we can take advantage of the verandah and the outdoors! Our kitchen is expanding, so the menu will grow as will the wine list. More music, more Xmas parties and more chilled Sunday afternoons. I should also mention that we are planning to open for breakfast and lunch serving the best Proud Mary coffee!”
While Leaver’s has a varied and storied past, its future is looking bright – Chantel and her team have established Odessa as a relaxed, enticing venue that you’ll want to come back to time and time again.
Odessa at Leaver’s Hotel is located at 80 Albert Street, Creswick.
Written by Adrian Aloi