The Amsterdam Bar is one of the shuttered venues in the city awaiting updates on the prolonged, multi-tiered approach to our stalled exit from lockdown.

Winter is coming and with it a stark realisation that there may be further restrictions in January before things start to get better. Vaccination news has provided some encouragement. We can begin to imagine a more familiar way to socialise. Bars will be back, and when they do return, this place will have something extra to offer.

The story so far: The ‘Dam is a dog-friendly, stylish city centre hangout, with an upbeat soundtrack. A sister venue to Saint Luke’s, Tom Walker hosted his aftershow party here when he played at the Barrowlands and Lewis Capaldi is a fan. The bar has a freewheeling approach to their rotating cocktail selection and the outside area is popular for pints when it’s sunny. Order shakshuka baked eggs and a Bloody Mary for brunch. Elsewhere on the menu - burgers, loaded fries and sourdough pizza.

Embracing the Dutch theme and taking inspiration from the story of artist Vincent Van Gogh, their basement has been transformed into The Absent Ear, the Merchant City’s new cocktail lounge and speakeasy. Owner Michael Woods has hired the cocktail team that made Wheesht one of the most talked about drinking dens in the city when it popped-up on Claremont Street. They are working with The Amsterdam to create a new space for “flamboyant cocktails with a theatrical presentation”. The tastefully appointed lounge will also serve a bar snack menu. The new venue will be ready to launch when Glasgow makes it to a tier of restrictions that allows cocktails to be served. In the meantime, here’s one of their recipes that you can try at home.

“This is our indulgent end of the night dessert drink. We call it the Tiramisu in homage to the classic Italian dessert. When we return, you can order this from the bar at The ‘Dam or enjoy it in our new late night cocktail bar speakeasy”


  • 45ml Glenlivet
  • 7.5ml Gravino
  • 10ml Tonka syrup
  • 10ml Pandan
  • 25ml Espresso (or strong Cold Brew)
  • 15ml Cacao Nib Infused Oloroso
  • 12.5ml Nonino
  • 10ml Cross Brew
  • 1 Whole Egg

Method: Mix all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, strain then serve in a Lotus biscuit crumbed glass. Garnish with some chocolate dust.

Shop Local: See Sharp Optical

It’s worth noting with a sense of pride that 6,874 new businesses have started up in Glasgow this year in spite of all the challenges and missed opportunities that 2020 represents. The local entrepreneurial spirit comes in all different shapes and sizes. It’s powering a revival of neighbourhood high streets but often these are family businesses that start from home. Bobby Bowden has made glasses since the age of 16. Three years ago, at the age of 58 and looking to concentrate on what he does best, he took the plunge and set up his own company with his wife Linda. See Sharp Optical is based in a converted garage at the bottom of their garden at their home on Everard Drive in Springburn. It now functions as a workshop and showroom.

I first heard a bit of their story when I parked on the street – Linda had called across her garden fence to ask if I was interested in a new pair of glasses and offered a leaflet, from an appropriate social distance. She talks to customers and the businesses has grown through word of mouth.

Glasgow Times:

They are open during lockdown, operating on a pre-arranged appointment basis to ensure limited visits and give time for cleaning between customers. Glasses can be selected and are often made while you wait and have a cup of tea. Bobby also offers repairs to existing frames. Daughter Angela says: “They spend time chatting to every single customer and the showroom feels homely with a wee fire, couch and a kettle that is always on. They are down to earth, humble and happy when enough money is made to pay the bills. Three years on, they still get excited when the phone goes and a returning or new customer makes an appointment.”

Arab Strap Return With New Album

“It's about hopelessness and darkness,” says Aidan Moffat. “But in a fun way.” The Arab Strap frontman is speaking about the band’s seventh studio album ‘As Days Get Dark’, and their first since 2005’s ‘The Last Romance.’ Moffat makes it clear that the aim is not to “recapture the 90s,” but instead to create a distinctive album and move forward. “This album feels like its own new thing to me,” he says. “It's definitely Arab Strap, but an older and wiser one, and quite probably a better one.”

Across the eleven tracks, the band have tapped into their core foundations, but also stretched it out into new terrain. The mix of post-rock soundscapes, subtle electronics, clicking drum beats, swelling strings and Moffat’s half-sung, half-spoken vocals are all present, but so too is are new additions - from blasts of saxophone to disco grooves and an immersive production that takes you deep into the stories.

“We've had enough distance from our earlier work to reappraise and dissect the good and bad elements of what we did,” says Malcolm Middleton. “Not many bands get to do this, so it's great to split up.”

Glasgow Times:

The band reconnected with producer Paul Savage, with just the three of them in the studio, as it was the very first time around. “Paul brings comfort and trust,” says Middleton, “And a sense of continuity.”

“I've never been interested in making slick records,” says Moffat. “But the new stuff sounds much fuller, brighter and better because we actually know what we're doing. I think for a long time we didn't know how to express what we wanted in a studio.”

‘As Days Gets Dark’ is a record that is a continuation for the band as well as a leap forward, Middleton concludes: “There's no point getting back together to release mediocrity.”