A northern soul with Nicky Cain of Harrogate Spring

Once upon a time, Nicky Cain had thoughts about becoming a lawyer but switched to marketing instead. Lucky for Harrogate Spring Water, the oldest British bottled water brand. Nicky is the architect of a marketing strategy that has established Harrogate Spring as the No.1 British premium spring water, with a string of industry awards for brand excellence. Pioneering partnerships with Royal Ascot, Twentieth Century Fox and environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, among many others, has seen the Harrogate brand become one of the most active in the market place, while sales have consistently out-stripped category growth for the past four years.

In which country have you had your most exciting food experiences?

A tough choice, but I think for consistent highquality, amazing diversity and staggering portionsizes (!) it has to be South Africa. The game selection and wine pairings were out of this world.

What do you look for when you choosea restaurant?

I look for whether it will deliver a memorable experience. Whether that’s fish and chips eaten out of newspaper on a blustery Jersey beach (we love Faulkner Fisheries) or a leisurely Sunday lunch in front of a roaring log fire… our favourite Sunday spot is the Sportsman’s at Wath, North Yorkshire. For me it’s all about time and place. Above all it has to be authentic, the food has to be prepared with passion, using the best available ingredients.

How do you calculate value for money whenpaying for a meal?

It’s fair to say that we don’t mind paying for quality. Generally, and in my experience you quickly gather whether something is going to be good value or not, firstly by the welcome and the ambience… followed by the bread and butter on offer. We dined at a ‘Michelin’ starred restaurant in Bilbao recently and whilst it was expensive, to be given a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to prepare such wonderful food certainly allows you to appreciatevalue for money. Simply, I suppose the two questions are, ‘would I come back’ and ‘would I recommend’; if it’s two yes’s, then it’s value for money.

How do you find a good restaurant in anunfamiliar location?

We do use online reviews and often have a guidebook to hand, but more often it’s word of mouth, and then fate! There’s something wonderful about stumbling across somewhere completely authentic whilst pounding thestreets – we’re often lucky in this regard as we’ve discovered so many great restaurants, and remarkable people – both at home or abroad.

“ There’s something wonderful about stumbling across somewhere completely authentic whilst pounding the streets…

Who or what are your biggest food influencers?

Indian food is my all-time favourite cuisine. Introduced atan early age, I’ve enjoyed our proximity to Bradford. I then spent my university years in Birmingham, the home of theBalti in the UK. Location to some of the country’s best Indianrestaurants has shaped my love of curry and spicy foods!

Who’s on your restaurant wish list?

We toured the North of Spain this year but didn’t quite make it into San Sebastian – it’s still on my list to sample some of their 17 Michelin stars!

Is there a chef you particularly admire, and if so why?

Madhur Jaffrey for making Indian food accessible and celebrating regional flavour and home-cooking.

Are there any food critics whose opinionsyou respect?

Many, though none that I regularly subscribe to.

Is there any aspect of dining out or contemporary cuisine that you find especially irritating?

Ill informed waiters and waitresses that can’t present the chef’s interpretation.

Describe your perfect dining companion.

My husband.

Is there a single meal that stands out as the best you’ve ever enjoyed?

Gosh, lots to consider here, but for the overall experience, The Kafer, Munich.

Do you cook for guests yourself?

Yes – the last memorable occasion was for my father and father-in-law. They both turned 70 this year and we went allout on Father’s Day to prepare the best meal we possibly could.We produced a menu with wine pairing – the highlight being Yorkshire spring lamb chops with Jersey Royal potatoes, paired with a glass or two of wonderful Rioja. Oh, and to finish,a selection of cheeses with a bottle of 1963 Port!

Money is no object. Describe your perfectLast Supper (with wines).

My Last Supper would begin with a walk to our all-time favourite Sunday lunch venue, the Sportsman’s at Wath;with all of our family, including Bella our black Labrador. We’d all have their wonderfully cooked, rare roast beef, Yorkshire puddings of course and a fine red wine from their marvellous list followed by cheese!