Keki Milk Bar
This CBD cafe is dedicated to fluffy soufflé pancakes and creative sodas.
Tucked between the grey high-rises of Queen Street, you'll find Keki Milkbar: a small, considered cafe that's a cosy escape from (the usual) hustle and bustle of the CBD.
If you don't see Keki — although, it's hard to miss its moss green exterior — you'll certainly smell it. The space emanates a delicate sweetness not unlike the bakeries and cake shops you'd find in train stations around Japan.
But it was Korea where Keki owner Hangyul 'Han' Oh first thought up the cafe. "It was in Ikseon-dong, Seoul, where I first played with the idea of opening up a cafe," Oh tells Concrete Playground. "My business partner Wookjin 'Jin' Jang and I saw a soufflé pancake cafe while travelling around this popular area in Korea, and he had a recipe up his sleeve."
Together with Oh's third business partner Jacob Jeon, the well-versed hospitality trio united back in Melbourne and launched Keki. Instead of finding their own space, though — a difficult feat during a pandemic — they started serving takeaway pancakes at CBD cafe Workshop Bros after dark.
To make the gravity-defying pancakes — a dish originating in Japan, but now adored all over the globe — the team whips egg whites into pancake mix to create pillowy, airy batter. They're less sweet than traditional pancakes, too, which leaves room for sugar-filled toppings.
"The most important thing is the presentation," says Oh. "Our menu has six flavours and we have tried to make them as good looking as possible. We garnish delicately so every customer see just how jiggly and fluffy the pancake is."
Oh's favourite flavours are strawberry ($14) and tiramisu ($14), but other offerings include matcha and red bean ($14), honey-macadamia (made with local honeycomb) and sticky salted caramel ($15) — a popular flavour among regulars.
The drinks menu at Keki is almost as impressive as the pancakes. You can choose from orange and lemon, strawberry or mandarin sodas ($5.50), which are made with fresh fruit syrup and fermented for eight hours. They can be served hot, like a tea ($5), too.
If you're looking for a milk-based drink, try a matcha, strawberry or chocolate latte ($5–5.50) —served hot or cold — made using a special Keki recipe.
Images: Parker Blain