The success of any large event or simple dinner party can hinge on the style and quality of the food and wine. Whether the menu is simple or grand try to use as many fresh ingredients as possible and you may want to make a point of using local specialities such as salmon, game, venison, beef or even local wine. Follow our menu game plan and you won’t go far wrong.

Always consider your budget. If you are slightly restricted don’t spend a lot of money on too many expensive items such as foie gras or canapés, which are not very filling. Go for a good homemade soup followed by quality meat or fish and then make it as special as you possibly can.

This can be achieved with a rich sauce or a beautiful dish of unusual fresh vegetables. Finish with a delicious pudding, perhaps served with a good dessert wine.

When choosing a menu do consider the importance of colour and texture. Make sure each course complements the other – dishes that are too similar do not combine well to make an exciting menu. For example a heavy seafood starter cooked in cream followed by a rich cream soup, followed by lemon sole cooked in a cream and wine sauce followed by sherry trifle would probably have most of your guests up half the night with indigestion!

The best menus always have a great mix of different ingredients to avoid a repeat of too many of the same elements.

Always use the best ingredients or prevail upon your venue to do the same. No one likes to hold a conversation while trying to chew their way through a gristly piece of steak. If you hold regular dinner parties but find it difficult to find really good local meat or fish it may be worth your while finding a specialist butcher or fishmonger who will send top quality food from the West Country or Scotland. There are quite a few now advertising in posh lifestyle magazines or on the internet.

If you are going to put on a buffet it is a good idea to offer both hot and cold dishes and include lots of different options such as red meat, seafood, chicken and vegetarian dishes. Use lots of colour and be daring with some of your displays – a fabulous ice sculpture surrounded by seafood or fruit or huge dishes of ice cream can really enhance your table.

Where people help themselves, always put out plenty of serving spoons and more cutlery, plates and napkins than is needed. It avoids long queues and squabbles over the last fork!

At large parties especially there will inevitably be at least one, if not several, vegetarians. Do make sure you have a really tasty non-meat alternative on the menu and do not be guilty of offering something unimaginative like a quiche or nut cutlets. There are so many wonderful vegetable dishes on offer that there is no excuse for serving up any old thing that doesn’t contain meat. You should offer such a scrumptious dish that even the meat eaters opt for it as an alternative.

Finally forget the rules about which wine with which food, it is always prudent to have a few bottles of both red and white available for your guests. Many people are allergic to red wine and some people simply love it so much they drink it with anything and everything. After all you are not setting out to educate your guests – you are hell bent on thrilling them!