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The Baum Reviewed: Britain's Best Pub

Neil Sowerby doesn't mind a delay with his dogs

Written by . Published on March 18th 2013.

The Baum Reviewed: Britain's Best Pub

A DAY has already had a result when you’ve stumbled upon the grave of the man who in 1860 invented the compound cricket ball we still use today. He was a Rochdale shoemaker called Hamlet Nicholson and he lies ’neath the lawn of the town’s lofty parish church, St Chad. There’s a helpful churchyard plan. Tim Bobbin, the Lancastrian bard, is also buried here high above that matchless Town Hall. 

The food has always been a big Baum plus. True, it’s a menu that lies on the quirky side of eclectic – the ‘tapas’ are more Wheeltapas and Shuntas

Drizzled on, shivering, I was alone in celebrating two proud sons of a proud town. It’s hardly Graceland or Haworth here. That morning BBC Breakfast had featured bits of Rochdale it described as among Britain’s most deprived. Not the kind of publicity that’s going to bring visitors flocking.  

The Baum may well attract a few. Deservedly. 


Tripe AboveTripe Above

It has just been crowned Britain’s Best Pub by the Campaign for Real Ale. Coincidentally it sits in the Toad Lane Conservation Area, Rochdale’s pocket-sized tourist hub. Next door lives Little Nell’s Doll’s House Hospital or some such frippery, a Purveyor of Twice Monthly Ghost Walks and, naturally, the Pioneers Museum, housed in the first Co-op store in the world. 

The Baum is not averse to flaunting heritage. It may hold the world record for the number of St Bruno plaques in one hostelry and its interior is what I call oaken-penumbral. Yet this converted hardware shop doesn’t smack of Mrs Miggin’s Pie Shoppe. It’s got a venerable atmosphere but also a bizarrely contemporary vibe. 

Reflective Moment With St Bruno In The BaumReflective moment with St Bruno in the Baum

Eight hand pumps dispense some decidedly current takes on ale – think far-flung single hop varietals – and a leftfield cider to steady your aim when you partake of petanque on two full-size pistes in the beer garden. CAMRA members get a 45p a pint discount, which enabled me to sample a goodly range at under three quid apiece. Heck Brewery’s Citra, brewed in North Yorkshire, pipped both the powerful Twisted Hop from Northern Ireland’s Hilden and Marston’s ‘craft brewery’ style homage to Kiwi hops, Pacific Gem, but all were immaculately kept. 

Food was slightly more problematic, not because of what I had. The Tripadvisor Troll who laments The Baum fed him the worst meal he had ever paid for is a typical internet malcontent. The food has always been a big Baum plus. True, it’s a menu that lies on the quirky side of eclectic – the ‘tapas’ are more Wheeltapas and Shuntas than Seville partnerships – but the food’s genuinely home-made and affordable. 

I couldn’t resist ordering the gross-sounding Hot Dog Topped With Beef Chilli and Cheddar, served with Chips & Coleslaw (£6.95). It was worth the wait. Ah, the wait. I’d gone back to the bar to ask for a receipt and this somehow cancelled my order. 

Half an hour later I'd exhausted the Guardian coverage of the Pope’s potentially murky past... and an obituary of the last surviving member of the group who failed to assassinate Hitler – Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist, from a Pomeranian patrician dynasty. The equivalent of the Schofields in Rochdale, only less Prussian. (Ho. Ho. Very gute, Neil. Ed) 

By now, the hops were running low. 

The barman apologised for the delay. 

Would I accept some more ale on the house while they got it out for me finally? I would. 

TWO platesful of Hot Dog then swiftly arrived. One was enough, ample, vast actually, with stalwart fat chips, a crisp bun and a mellow chilli burn. Perfect beer food in a well nigh perfect pub, cash register glitch aside. Don’t just take CAMRA’s word for it. 

It’s one very good reason to visit Rochdale, but surely not the only one. 

Open your eyes and your heart while you’re passing through and you might find a few more surprises. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield 


The Baum, 33-37 Toad Lane,  Rochdale, Lancashire OL12 0NU, 01706 352186 www.thebaum.co.uk

Rating: 15.5/20 

Pub ambience: 8/10 
Drinks: 4/5
Food: 3.5/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Shining Handpump Heaven

Shining Handpump Heaven


Toys Are ThemToys Are Them

Why this hot dog is the top dog?Why this hot dog is the top dog?

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18 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AndyMarch 19th 2013.

Great write-up of a great old school boozer - well worth making the trip from town especially when the trams finally start running.

AnonymousMarch 19th 2013.

yonnerland/I don't care

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 20th 2013.


grangeMarch 19th 2013.

The email I recieved said 'best pub to close' but the article doesnt state this.

The pub is staying open ?

EditorialMarch 19th 2013.

Grange, badly written email title and missing comma syndrome. Apologies. We should have written 'Britain's Best Pub Reviewed, Urban Retreat To Close'. Apologies.

Mandy WardMarch 19th 2013.

Ah. That addresses my confusion too.....

AnonymousMarch 19th 2013.

THE OXFORD on Whitworth Rd is the place to be in Rochdale ,great atmosphere , excellent,original food with all the friendliness of a family run business , whos customer service may I add is second to none, no waiting , no cancelled orders , new exciting ideas weekly THE OXFORD ALL THE WAY !!!

AnonymousMarch 19th 2013.

Surely a half hour plus wait for a single dish is the kind of poor service that would normally be lampooned on this site? I wonder what else a CAMRA discount can by you?

AnonymousMarch 19th 2013.

Surely a half hour plus wait for a single dish is the kind of poor service that would normally be lampooned on this site? I wonder what else a CAMRA discount can buy you?

AnonymousMarch 21st 2013.

The Oxford is not a patch on the food/service/character of the Baum and the food is well worth the half hour wait if neccesary ( This is a rare occurance!) eating there last night, our food was served quickly and was delicious.
Spoilt for choice with both food and drinks. Keep up the good work and well done x

AnonymousMarch 23rd 2013.

I beg to differ with the above entry! When were you last in The Oxford?? You've obviously come home after a night on the ale to start a rant! The Baum is a Town Centre Pub, which thus loses the personal touch and friendliness of the more celubriuos hostilery like The Oxford. There's a genuine welcome at The Oxford, opposed to the atmosphere of a town pub. Get yer benefits and head up to The Oxford for some class food, beer and friendliness , no waiting. Everyone is treated the same ,you don't have to be a member of CAMRA to qualify for the quality on offer.

AnonymousMarch 23rd 2013.

Simon stop writing your own reviews ! The Oxford is by far a better location for food , ale , wines and spirits , and the welcome and friendliness is far more superior in The Oxford .The Baum is a Town Centre Pub, cold and full of numptys

AnonymousMarch 24th 2013.

What lagers/bitters are on at The Oxford? BE suprised if they have anywhere near the choice of the Baum....

AnonymousMarch 25th 2013.

I think it's three of each but surely that's not a deal breaker in this day and age? There's a much better variety of spirits & wines which as a female drinker makes a big difference. There's something for everyone, not just bearded CAMRA anoraks.

John O'DonnellMarch 28th 2013.

I worked in Rochdale for 16 years and I've never heard of The Oxford while workmates have arranged many a meet in The Baum, Cemetary, Flying Horse, Regal Moon and others. Baum has been an excellent pub for many years.

RalphtalkingJune 14th 2013.

Anyone who thinks the Baum serves "immaculately kept" real ale is a total philistine. More often than not, the beer in there is completely undrinkable.

Jonathan MoranJune 14th 2013.

Always grates when people refer to lager as "beer".......

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2013.

Well what can I say food ,staff and hosts fantastic will definitely back. A well deserved camra pub of the year.

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