Tucked away in one of the busiest parts of the city is Keki Milk Bar’s first standalone shop. The soufflé pancake spot, which first opened in 2020 as a 10-seater inside Workshop Bros Cafe, recently opened a 28-seat dessert haven close to Melbourne Central on La Trobe Street.
Chef Wookjin “Jin” Jang and co-owners Hangyul “Han” Oh (who also co-owns Ilza Izakaya and Snack Bar and Jacob Jeon renovated the cosy ground-level space in just five weeks.
The store, which Jang describes as having a “Japanese, homey chill” feeling, is filled with round wooden tables and stools, pot plants and cute pancake prints on the walls. At the back, you can spot the team piping batter onto the grill in a small open kitchen. And at the front, there’s an elevated platform that opens onto the street where you can watch the trams pass by while enjoying one of Keki’s signature soufflé pancakes.
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The pancakes are made with whipped egg whites using Jang’s recipe batter. The recipe hasn’t changed since Keki first opened and the menu is similarly staying the same as it was in the Workshop Bros Cafe location – for now.
Keki’s soufflé pancakes are about the size of an English muffin, with the options – plain, matcha, tiramisu, strawberry, cookies and cream, honey, raspberry white chocolate, caramel, and pecan – all served as a double stack.
Each stack is topped with a custard-y mascarpone Keki cream made using Jang’s top secret recipe; the chef wanted to “defy gravity” Elphaba-style and made it his goal to develop a topping that would stop running midway down the pancake stack. The result is a not-too-sweet, not-too-heavy cream that’s flavoured differently for each menu item and gives Keki’s soufflé pancakes their signature look.
The most popular of the pancakes – and Jang’s favourite – is the tiramisu version, which comes covered in Keki cream, coffee syrup and a Tim Tam and digestive biscuit crumble.
Strawberry white chocolate is another Keki-regular favourite and in a few weeks the team will be adding three new flavours – basil and rhubarb, parmesan and truffle, and lemon – to the menu.
You can also expect all the beverages found at the OG Keki. Most, including the house-made strawberry, orange and lemon, or passionfruit soda are flavoured with syrup made by fermenting different fruits. There are also matcha, strawberry and chocolate drinks, coffee from Cru+ Coffee Roasters and tea from Quinnies.
Keki Milk Bar
350 La Trobe Street, Melbourne
Mon to Thu 3pm–9.30pm