If you had to name a country with the best bread and local bakeries you might well think of France.

Lucky North Londoners can get an authentic slice of the country's baking culture thanks to a trio of university friends, who have changed the bread shopping habits of residents in Barnet and Tufnell Park - and are hoping to do the same in Islington.

"People are coming in every day for a baguette like they do in France, which for us is super pleasing," says Alexandre Bal, who originally hails from outside Paris.

Ham & High: The French Market opened in Blackstock Road in September and is the third bakery to be opened by a trio of French friends.The French Market opened in Blackstock Road in September and is the third bakery to be opened by a trio of French friends. (Image: The French Market)

He and friends Amaury Levisalles and Matthieu Sevagen first opened Authentique Epicerie & Bar in March 2018. The Tufnell Park wine bar and shop imports artisan French cheeses, chocolate, pickles and charcuterie alongside an 800 strong wine list.

Bal, whose mother's family make wine in the Beaujolais region, brought a passion and knowledge for wine, while the others brought business expertise.

"We had all talked about opening something together with French food and wine," he says. "My passion was wine and I had managed Nicolas shops in Marylebone and Kensington before working for Yapp Brothers. We were all missing those French products, so it all came together for our first business."Ham & High: The cafe and bakery sells great coffee, baked goods and cheesesThe cafe and bakery sells great coffee, baked goods and cheeses (Image: The French Market)

Their vision of not only importing products but "making something ourselves that had proper French heritage" took off when locals starting buying the bread they served in the wine bar and deli.

"We used to buy really good baguettes from a wholesaler and people were coming in to buy take away, even when they were not fully cooked - they said they were better than the local bakery. So the bakery side of things became obvious," adds Bal.

In February 2021 they opened a wine shop, deli and bakery, The French Market in Whetstone where they still bake all the bread, cakes and pastries for their shops using flour and butter imported from France.Ham & High: Sourdough baguettes from The French MarketSourdough baguettes from The French Market (Image: The French Market)

Three months later, the lease came up on The Tufnell Park Bakery in Fortess Road, which they took on - with croissants, a creamy flan pâtissier, and Breton speciality Kouign-amann among their top sellers.

And in September they opened a second The French Market in Blackstock Road, a bakery and deli with seating indoors and out.

Bal says: "The concept was working really well, we realised we could easily open another couple of sites and that's why Finsbury Park came about. It's multicultural, a great diverse community, who know French products, and are coming in regularly for great coffee and bread. Ham & High: All the pastries and bread are baked at their outlet in Whetstone, BarnetAll the pastries and bread are baked at their outlet in Whetstone, Barnet (Image: The French Market)

"We have a nice garden. Now people have to know we are here."

The trio have stuck around North London, Bal lives in Enfield, while Matthieu and Amaury live in Tufnell Park and Hornsey Rise. Bal ascribes their success to staying true to their French heritage, with goods baked from scratch to centuries old recipes "like grandma would make".

"Yes you can find lots of French products, but most are still from larger industrial production. We wanted to bring over lots of artisan deli items, handmade by small producers, and focus on the quality of our service.

"It's like a shop in France, and of course the artisanal bakeries that are everywhere in France - where they know what they are selling, and the story of the products."

But he adds: "But London is changing for the better. There are more and more artisanal bakeries popping up in every neighbourhood."

The French Market is now open at 16 Blackstock Road, N4. The Tufnell Park Bakery is at 146A Fortess Road NW5, Authentique Epicerie and Bar at 116 Fortess Road and The French Bakery Barnet at 1324-1326 High Road, N20.