About Topik London

The aim of Topik is to present ‘food without borders’, creating a space to explore and taste the foods of many different minority cultures as well as more well known Turkish dishes.

Exhibition: dis/placed, Shoreditch Town Hall
Irem Aksu – the founder, chef and researcher at Topik London – 2015, June.

Topik London is a gastronomy and culture project to create a space for food from Istanbul and Anatolia through pop-up and supper club events. Led by Irem, a founder and head chef, Topik explores the tangled roots of borderless cuisines in Turkey – culinary practices date back almost two millennia ago to the early days of the Byzantine empire, then the great Ottoman Empire, and finally modern Turkish Republic.

About Irem

Irem founded Topik, a successful food project and catering service, in 2015. Topik explores the diverse culinary roots of Istanbul and Anatolia. Before food became her main passion, Irem worked as a news reporter and a human rights campaigner. Whilst completing her MA in Cultural and Critical Studies in London, she started running pop-up food events. As well as completing work experience at Ottolenghi, she has worked at e5 Bakehouse for two years between 2016-2018; where she cooked organic, locally sourced meals. Irem held a chef residency at October Gallery in Bloomsbury in 2018-2019 March. 

Besides she organises “7 Hills of Istanbul” super club series every season in various venues in London. Each menu she creates based on flavours of different cuisines, including Jewish, Istanbul Greeks, Armenian, Kurdish, Circassian which, perhaps unrecognised or hidden, make up modern day Turkey and its culinary history.

What’s topik?

Topik meze dish – at Armenian Supper Club @e5bakehouse photo by Sebnem Ugural

The name ‘Topik’ comes from an Istanbul Armenian meze dish, traditionally eaten at Easter, Christmas and on New Year’s eve. Unlike other mezes, Topik takes a long time to prepare, so it is rarely found in the meze and Raki taverns (called Meyhane) and lokanta (restaurants) of Istanbul, instead it is normally served at family gatherings. Even though I was born and raised in Turkey, it was not until I was 22 – a decade ago –  as a guest at my Armenian friend’s Easter meal, that I came across the meze dish ‘Topik’. I subsequently realised that there is a hidden world of foods, from various minorities living in Istanbul and modern day Turkey, which originate from the old, multi-cultural Anatolia and Istanbul.

As ‘Topik’ was my own personal doorway to the forgotten and displaced foods of Turkey, I thought it apt to name my project after it, hopefully opening this same doorway to others.