Tuesday, 22 December 2020 15:50

End of an era in New Barnet: au revoir, Chez Tonton

Written by
Eric and Claudine Michel, proprietors of Chez Tonton, with head chef Hubert Champion (right) Eric and Claudine Michel, proprietors of Chez Tonton, with head chef Hubert Champion (right)
A New Barnet institution, the French restaurant Chez Tonton has closed after 37 years -- an emotional farewell for proprietors Eric and Claudine Michel, who are known to legions of loyal customers, and who are looking forward to fresh challenges in their retirement.

For lovers of French cuisine and committed Francophiles, dining at Chez Tonton was a moment to savour and an occasion for North Londoners to be transported to a back-street bistro in Paris or a bustling brasserie on the promenade of a French holiday resort.
Chez Tonton always tried to create the best possible atmosphere with special celebrations for Quatorze Juillet (Bastille Day), the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau and guest appearances by their visiting accordionist Dominic.


Eric says that he and Claudine decided last year that it was time to end a huge chapter in their lives and close Chez Tonton. The premises have been sold for development as a retail outlet.
Claudine says they both have so many happy memories and built up so many friendships over the years.
“We go back two generations with some customers. They came here with their parents as youngsters, perhaps for something like an 18th birthday party, and then booked a table for one of their own wedding anniversaries.”


Head chef Hubert Champion had been at Chez Tonton for 14 years. Eric said that his staff – who were “as French as they come” – all deserved a huge “merci” for helping over the years to create and serve some of the best French food.
French onion was the most popular item on the menu as well as other French specialities.
The last day’s opening – planned for December 24 – was going to be a final farewell but had to cancelled because of the coronavirus lockdown. Their last night serving meals was December 14, which had been fully booked and was very busy.

Since opening in September 1984, Chez Tonton has hosted some famous names: the guitarist Bryan May; Baby Spice, Emma Bunton; and cast members from Eastenders.
Another regular was the former general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the late Fred Jarvis, and his wife Anne, who lived in New Barnet and who had a house in France.
They enjoyed Chez Tonton’s camaraderie and ambience and Mr Jarvis held a birthday party at the restaurant shortly before his death this year.

“As we became almost certainly the oldest family-run restaurant in and around Barnet, under the same ownership, we obviously have so many memories. We are going to miss our customers,” said Eric, who lives with Claudine at Enfield.
“Lots of them kept coming back time and again. Those memories will always be with us.”

When asked what happened in 2016 after the UK’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union, Eric was diplomatic about the reaction of the many Europhiles among his clientele.
He added with a smile: “We thought it best not to discuss politics while looking after our guests.”

Closing Chez Tonton had been a monumental step.
“We are very fortunate to be in our position and looking forward to enjoying the years to come. We’ve treated this year’s lockdowns as a little teaser to what awaits us and the freedom of having time to ourselves and knowing what was around the corner really has given us a sense of excitement for our next adventures.”
Former customers keen to relive their memories, exchange photographs, and pass on best wishes are invited to email Eric and Claudine at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





  • Comment Link Monday, 18 January 2021 09:34 posted by David

    Had some great evening in there, a little of France down East Barnet Road it will be sadly missed, I looked to visit again when this virus has gone over the horizon. Thank you for the memories and good luck to all the staff, whatever you decide to do, wherever life takes you enjoy it.


  • Comment Link Tuesday, 02 March 2021 15:05 posted by Val Goldimg

    I have only just realised/accepted that lovely Chez TonTon is no more, I am devastated. I have been an enthusiastic diner with you for probably all of the 35 years you have been in New Barnet and I have many happy memories of delicious meals there with my late husband and many friends. Thank you for all those memories, Eric and Claudine, Good luck in the future, I shall miss you so much.
    Val Golding

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 06 April 2021 22:43 posted by Jonny Ray

    Hi Eric
    Just learnt the sad news
    Will you reopen anywhere locally or is that it?
    You wee great

  • Comment Link Saturday, 22 May 2021 12:59 posted by Mike Jean Barry

    Very sorry to hear the news.We moved to Barnet around 1980 after we got married..
    We were in Barnet until 1988 when we moved up to Welwyn, where we never found such a nice place to go..
    We spent many really enjoyable nights at TonTons, appreciating the wonderful food, the ambience and you and your staffs' wonderful hospitality and friendliness.
    We could not get down to Tontons much after moving but we did manage some nights (wish it had been more), and were looking forward to coming again until we just picked up the news of your closure.
    We wish you and your family all the best whether it is in England. France or elsewhere. If you open up a restaurant again, wherever that may be I'm sure it will be a success, and we would love to come along if you broadcast where it is.
    Alternatively, have a well earned and wonderful retirement.
    (Will especially miss the onion soup and various Canard dishes!)
    All the Best
    Mike and Jean

  • Comment Link Saturday, 12 June 2021 08:33 posted by Michael Winchester.

    Hello Eric.
    We tried your Telephone Number to no avail and then found this rotten news that you have closed and retired, you will be very much missed. We wish you a very happy retirement. We last spoke to you and your family when we were dinning at a restaurant in Enfield a couple of years ago.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 01 January 2022 16:31 posted by Trouard-Riolle Michel

    Triste d apprendre la fermeture de chez Tonton . Très bonne retraite à vous deux vous le mériter . Meilleure vœux pour 2022 et surtout une très bonne santé a toute la famille .
    Michel Trouard-Riolle .

  • Comment Link Thursday, 20 January 2022 10:30 posted by Rachelle Leaver

    Oh Eric. I am so sad Chez Tonton is closed. I was a regular until I left for Australia 10 years ago but every visit back to the UK I made it a must to visit you and enjoy your hospitality and great food. On our visits back you always remembered us and made us so welcome. I loved your crème brulee!! This is a true loss to the area. However, we wish you well and hope you have many happy years of retirement and enjoy your new adventures!!


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