Creswick’s newish bar has rapidly become the ‘go to place’ to enjoy a quiet drink, delicious food and live music within one of the town’s historic landmarks.
The building dates back to 1852 and was formerly Leakes Hotel, a café, a brothel, a gold exchange bank, a fish and chip shop and milk bar. The building sat idle for several years until purchased by Chantel Leaver who had no idea what she’d bought when she made the leap. Asked what made her buy it, Chantel said; “I can’t remember how it came about. I went to an auction with no plans to buy anything and when the property was passed in, on impulse, I chased the auctioneer and made an offer, which surprisingly, was accepted”. It was very run down and with the help of a builder friend Chantel started stripping back the old plaster, revealing red brick fire places, original stonework and then the biggest surprise – discovering the shingle roof. Chantel said, “We fixed it to what we imagined it would have looked like in it’s former glory and then we found the original windows. I spent years scavenging furniture and fittings from all over the place and when it was at a liveable stage, we rented it out for awhile, then decided to restore it to the original intention of making it a communal space, as it was in its hey day”.
Chantel wanted to be open for a cycling event and with very little money, this meant working day and night to complete all the renovations themselves with some very willing helping hands being involved. And they made it. It is a beautiful old building that exudes conviviality and now with renowned chef Ben O’Brien (many will remember Ben from Daylesford’s Breakfast and Beer) running the kitchen, patrons can also enjoy Ben’s excellent menu. Odessa’s is a place where people can go alone and feel safe. The friendliness of the staff and other patrons makes it a welcoming place for everyone and it is very child friendly. No surprise there as Chantel and her partner Cameron, a very busy physiotherapist, have their own children and have fostered several others. Asked how she deals with the work/life balance, Chantel said, “it isn’t really hard. Our older children help and as we live at the back, we are close on hand when needed”.
Chantel’s background was in the corporate world in the UK and she also worked in hospitality, so her experience has stood her in good stead to run Odessa’s. Asked where she saw Odessa’s in five years’ time, she said, “I see it as similar to now, possibly with added accommodation in the rear stables, running more events and weddings and just enjoying watching people getting together and having fun”.
In light of new restrictions for bars and restaurants Odessa at Leaver’s Hotel will close to the public until further notice. However, Ben and Chantel are offering take away, available from Thursday to Sunday from 5pm to 8pm. For the take away menu checkout the Facebook page and order on 0428 694 258.