City speakeasy has artistic flair

Artistic Speakeasy drink in a wine glass.
The Absent Ear focuses on “top quality drinks done in a fun, vibrant way”.


THE team behind Glasgow bars St Luke’s and The Amsterdam have hailed their latest venture – speakeasy cocktail bar The Absent Ear – a “roaring success”, despite opening during coronavirus restrictions.

The new 34-capacity venue, in the Merchant City, is the brainchild of owner Michael Woods and operations manager Alex Riches and helmed by general manager Ruaraidh Paul. Customers book a table and receive directions to the venue via email, gaining entrance only after pressing a buzzer set into a portrait of Vincent van Gogh, from whom the bar takes its name.

Riches described the venue as a “proper knock-door speakeasy”.

“You descend down the staircase, past a bunch of Van Gogh paintings, down to the bottom, where you’re faced with a self portrait of Van Gogh,” he said.

“To get into the bar itself you have to press a buzzer that’s in his ear, which flashes a light inside the bar.

“So you’ve got the full theatre to be able to get into the bar. You have to be invited down. You have to have a booking for it.”

Any speakeasy will rise or fall with its cocktails, and so Woods and Riches have put together, in Riches’ words, “a team of absolute superstars” behind the bar.

Hires include bartenders Jamie Moran and Dave Ali – the team behind Glasgow speakeasy Wheesht, which closed its doors last year.

“I think it’s just trying to put a stamp down here as having the best cocktail menu in town and aiming to bring that kind of theatre of the speakeasy to it at the same time,” said Riches.

“Top quality drinks done in a fun, vibrant kind of way with theatrical serves.
“It’s really a kind of immersive experience. There’s no windows or anything down there. You lose yourself in it.”

And despite initially not being able to operate as a late-night bar (the venue will operate 4pm till 2am once normal trading hours resume), the response from customers has been positive, said Riches.

“Given it’s only 30 covers it’s been a roaring success so far,” he said.