Anything to do with Italy is an automatic winner for House of Coco; the wine, the food, the inherent style and beautiful people as well as the truly hospitable nature of the Italians. When we were invited to sample the real taste of Puglia in our own capital city, how could we resist? Emily Georgiou went along to Li Veli to see what it is like to dine as Italians do.
Li Veli, the Pugliese wine bar and bistro in Covent Garden showcases an authentic taste of Southern Italy, and their very own namesake wines. Open for lunch and dinner daily, diners can enjoy a meal or quick bite al fresco, in the beautiful dining rooms, or at the bar. The chic décor immediately transports you to a contemporary Italian eatery with beautiful packaged bags of dried pastas, rustic wine paraphernalia and olive oil cans used as decorative features within the space. The muted tones of creams and pale smoky greys create an elegant yet relaxed dining space, ideal for a casual dinner date or a quick bite before the theatre, but enough about the interior; what about the food?
It seemed a crime to not start with the olive oil and bread and gosh are we so glad we did. The bread was beautifully fresh and the olive oil was a golden liquid dream. A good olive oil can make or break a dish and this Italian extra virgin treat was superb. Along with our bread we were also served the delicious Taralli; baked wheat flavoured rings, and divine fresh green Apulian Olives. Even after devouring the bread, we thought that we should try a few antipasti dishes and opted for the Apulian fresh burrata cheese with raw peeled organic tomatoes and the soup of the day – asparagus and fresh mint. Buratta is quickly becoming our favourite cheese here at House of Coco and the combination of the sweet tomatoes with the creamy texture is exquisite. The new menu at Li Veli celebrates the clean, fresh flavours of Summer in Puglia, delivering dishes ideal for the season, starting with Antipasti such as “Latticini Pugliesi” – a selection of classic Apulian cheeses; herb-marinated beef carpaccio, or lightly smoked swordfish carpaccio. Pastas include home-made orecchiette “alla Crudaiola”; or home-made tagliolini with fresh tomato sauce, cacioricotta cheese and basil; and mains feature polpo “in Pignata” – the traditional Pugliese octopus stew. We sampled the home-made tagliolini which was wonderful; when in Rome… or Puglia, or London for that matter. By dessert we were well and truly full but we of course managed to find a small amount of space for a delectable tiramisu and a heavenly homemade pannacotta.
Li Veli is a joint venture between two families, the Falvo family, owners of the acclaimed Masseria Li Veli Winery, and the Melpignano family, founders and owners of the San Domenico Hotels Group. The Masseria Li Veli is located on Puglia’s Salento plain and produces a range of wines featuring ‘classic’ grapes, as well as a project called ‘Askos’, using traditional Puglian grape varieties that have been disappearing. Alfredo Falvo is the manager at Li Veli in Covent Garden and he is such a lovely man. The passion and knowledge that he radiates is inspiring and if you are ever in search of a good wine, he is your man.
The team are proud to offer the full range of Li Veli wines in London – which can also be bought from their on-site wine and speciality food shop – but the wine list also features an interesting selection of wines from across Italy, many from similarly small or artisan wineries. Whilst at Li Veli we sampled a few of the delicious wines on offer and we highly recommend tasting the Fiano Minutolo – white, or the Orion Primitivo – red. If you are ever in town and looking to experience a wonderfully authentic meal in an independent restaurant then House of Coco highly recommend trying Li Veli. Dine al fresco and people watch until your heart’s content; it doesn’t get much better than watching the world go by in Covent Garden.