Truthfully, however, I first got into this film after hearing clips of the soundtrack on the Japanese version of Iron Chef, during a time before it was acquired by the Food Network. This film score, composed by the great post-minimalist Michael Nyman, is still one of the most haunting and soul-stirring scores in my opinion, if not the one of the most impressionable bodies of musical work ever. I still listen to the album on a weekly basis - it gets under your skin that way.
The film itself is a piece of total art, as others have said. The sets are saturated with their singular color schemes (blue for the restaurant's exterior, green for the kitchen, white for the restrooms, and red for the main dining hall) , and people who have any sort of artistic training have valued and will continue to value this film as a character study of color. In this present age where most films present their interpretations of visual thrill through costly CG and SFX technologies, this film is a testament to how color can be a driving influence behind effective set design and cinematography.
The principal actors, including the always amazing Helen Mirren and Michael Gambon, are first rate. Helen Mirren's Georgina is a truly heart-wrenching character, especially in the face of Gambon's portrayal of Albert Spica, a poor excuse for a human being and one of cinema's cruelest villains. The cook and lover are merely catalysts, serving to instigate the final act that is the undoing of Albert's overreaching tyranny.
I suppose the anti-Thatcher sentiment is highly applicable to this film, but since I am not a British citizen, I feel that I cannot comment on this. However, I think the film's allegory can also be applied to other scenarios where a brutish figure uses violence and exploitation as a way to control others whose primary fault is only residing in the same physical/social/legal domain as the brute.
In short, a masterpiece.