Juliette Binoche has form in the cinematic kitchen, appealingly whipping up treats in Chocolat back in 2000.

In The Taste of Things (in cinemas 16 February) she’s got her apron on again – albeit this time we’re in the 19th century and she has a lot more on her plate than some posh chocs.

The opening 20 minutes of Tran Anh Hùng’s film sees Binoche’s Eugenie lovingly preparing a feast: clarifying broths, poaching great flat fish in milk, and roasting an aviary’s worth of birds.

In the story based on Marcel Rouff’s 1924 novel, Eugenie is employed as a cook by gourmand Dodin (Benoît Magimel). The two have a love affair, but compared with the often gory, sensual and illicit pleasures of the food on show (including the serving up of a clutch of now-forbidden ortolans) their route to marriage feels rather passionless.

Dodin is invited by the neighbouring Prince of Eurasia to a feast so lavish the menu takes “a day and a night” to consume. Puzzling over what to prepare for the return leg, he surprises all and sundry by deciding upon a pot-au-feu – humble peasant fare, traditionally consisting of boiled beef and veg. Is Dodin changing his philosophy? Er, no. We see him school an apprentice in its preparation, but he still makes fancy dishes. Does the prince get his pot-au-feu? We never find out.

“Do you see me as your cook or your wife?” Eugenie asks Dodin at one point. It tells you all you need to know about the film that when he chooses the first option, she thanks him.