In a glass fronted, intimately lit venue on Long Acre, Li Veli is a far cry from the tourist traps and bustling pubs of of nearby Covent Garden. Serving up traditional Apulian cuisine, the Li Veli family pride themselves on serving up traditional Italian cuisine, direct from their own vineyards and farmland in the Puglia region.
The emphasis is on clean, fresh flavours and local sourcing. The 75 cover restaurant is over two floors, with a spacious upstairs and intimate basement seating - it's ideal for either a quiet, cosy dinner or a relaxed business lunch.
A starter of 'fave e cicoria' is the restaurant's signature dish – like a lighter, Italian hummus, this mash of broad beans and potato topped with boiled chicory and blended with the house olive oil comes served with crisp bread, and, though it could perhaps benefit from slightly more seasoning, it's a light, relaxing way to start the meal and warm up the palate.
The restaurant's pièce de resistance, though, is its home made pasta, served simple pomodoro style in fresh tomato sauce, Apulian Burrata cheese – like mozzarella but lighter and stringier – and basil. This organic orecchiette is made from a local Puglian grain, a wholewheat fibrous pasta has a unique grainy texture and the simplicity makes the dish's fresh ingredients speak volumes.
Next up on the menu comes a baby octopus stew, served piping hot in a tomato sauce with black olives, potatoes, black chickpeas and capers. Thickly cut tentacles have a very meaty texture. The wine takes centre stage as much as the food does – and the team at Li Veli can help guide through the menu with pairings from their own vineyard in Puglia.
To round of the menu comes a Trulletto warm almond flan, filled with pineapple and with a vanilla and chocolate crust. Pair it with their signature digestif: a unique, honey-sweet Aleatico from Li Veli's winery, this rich amber coloured dessert Puglia wine lingers on the palate long after you've tasted it.
All of it simple, nourishing and healthy, this Apulian cuisine is as good as any you'll find in nearby Covent Garden. What really comes through is the pride the team take in their ingredients and preparation. For lovers of authentic Italian food, the Li Veli winery and bistro channels the emphasis on fine dining done simply that makes Italian cuisine so unique.
|Li Veli restaurant review
|Li Veli, 69 Long Acre, London, WC2E 9JS | MAP
|Covent Garden (underground)
25 Aug 17 – 25 Aug 18, Open 11am - 11.30pm Monday to Thursday, 11am - midnight Friday and Saturday, and midday - 10.30pm on Sunday