1 Jun 2010

Interview: Gotchya London

Critic of food critics and exposer of miscreants in the food industry, ‘Anna Harry Lime’ has become infamous for sending spiky Twitter missives under a veil of anonymity. In this e-mail interview, Lime talks about her lament for generic restaurants, ego journalists and a forthcoming exposé of the food industry...
Are you British?
Yes but my mother is French.
Are you male or female?
I am female.
In what era were you born?
Mid point of Generation X 1970.
How do you earn money?
I am part of a team of investigative journalists, but make most of my money trading Forex.
Looking at your pseudonym, are you a fan of ‘The Third Man’?
Yes indeed. Not so much the character - I just love the novel and the film.
Do you find anonymity liberating?
For this project it is essential because my research has unearthed material that will upset many people and will probably lead to their businesses collapsing.
What might we expect to learn from it?
We will expose the poor quality of procurement in many restaurants at all levels including lies about provenance and also focus on what major supermarket groups and well-known food brands are doing to both supply chains and our health.
Are you impressed that numerous people speculate who you are?
I was not aware that there was any speculation, or that people took any notice. However, when my book is published they probably will...
What was your most inspiring and most devastating meal?
Most inspiring: a meal prepared by the great Freddy Girardet in Crissier when I was 13. I was staying in a nearby sanitorium due to severe chest complications and it was a pleasure to speak to the great man. It was a Damascus moment. In fact, I ate there three times in the mid 80’s. I specifically remember a superb brocoli and wild mushroom soup and a jelly of chicken bouillon with truffled foie gras and mousseline of peas. Also, pigeon breasts with baby cabbage and lardons.
Most devastating: probably a lunch a few months ago at ‘Dean Street Townhouse’. The quality of ingredients, especially fresh meat, was a disgrace.
Is there an ingredient you abhor?
I cannot think of one I feel that strongly about. But saying that, I do not see any benefit in Ghee from either a flavour or health point of view.
Is Britain experiencing a culinary renaissance, or is posh ‘nosh’ a thin veneer?
There has been some progress in the past 25 years, and there have always been islands of excellence. However, the British are largely ignorant and lazy when it comes to gastronomy, and you really get what you deserve. The standardised blandness you get from [Richard] Caring’s ‘Caprice Holdings’ and ‘D and D’ are symptomatic of the malaise.
What are your favourite and least favourite restaurants?
Favourite in the UK currently is ‘The Kitchin’ in Leith; least favourite, ‘Hix’ Soho. Worldwide, my favourite is still probably ‘Auberge d l’Ill’ in Illhaeusern, Alsace, even though I must confess not having been for 14 months. My least favourite generally is probably ‘The Wolseley’ or ‘The Ivy’.
Does the supper club movement move you?
Which chefs, dead or alive, do you most and least, admire?
As well as Freddy Girardet, I greatly admire: Pierre Gagnaire, Nico Ladenis, Roger Verget, Alistair Little, Charlie Trotter and Simon Hopkinson. I least admire: Mark Hix and Richard Corrigan.
Who, in your opinion, are the biggest egos writing about gastronomy?
I’m not sure there are that many writing about gastronomy. In the UK we have restaurant critics and I don’t rate any of them. Of the few food hacks who write about recipes and chefs, Tim Hayward is trying to fill a void, but does not really have enough talent to draw on. I’m also not sure he would know where to find it - most of the UK food bloggers (with a few exceptions) are totally clueless and cannot see the wood from the trees. The biggest ego is probably Jay Rayner. Although saying that, I enjoy his oeuvre.
Do you move amongst them?
Some of them.
How much communication do you receive through direct messages on Twitter?
About 20%. My sources are not via Twitter but a combination of tip-offs and personal investigations.
Are you working on anything else?
My other project is related to money laundering. There is a small overlap with restaurants.
Will you ever step out from the wings of secrecy?
Very unlikely. I have at least three books in me :-)
You can follow Anna Harry Lime at: www.twitter.com/gotchyalondon