Li Veli, Covent Garden


In three words: Passionate, Charming, Authentic

The Lowdown: The Italians are known for being a passionate lot – be it love, football, or food, they throw themselves in whole-heartedly. And it is adoration for the latter subject that spurred a new bistro and winery to recently pop up in Covent Garden.

Those who are familiar with the geography of Italy will know that, in the heel of the boot, lies the Southern region of Puglia. This area is renowned for its cucinapovera – translated as ‘Peasant Cooking’ – as well as wonderful wines, and it is this fine combination that has now landed on English shores courtesy of a joint venture. The Falvo family, who own the Masseria Li Veli Winery in Puglia, have teamed up with the Melpignano family, founders of the San Domenico Hotels Group, to bring us authentic and delicious Italian flavours, all enjoyed in a relaxed and friendly environment.


Location: Just a hop skip and a jump from Seven Dials in Covent Garden, on bustling Long Acre street. So right in the hub of the action, then.

The Occasion: This makes for a great date spot – Italian food is conducive to romance, after all (hey, just look at Lady and the Tramp and the famous meatball scene if you need more proof). Li Veli is also a must stop for any wine lovers, and foodies should come with an appetite – although those not looking to eat carbs can find things to chow down on, it would be a massive shame to miss the sensational bread.


Decor: Upstairs has more of a relaxed, casual-café vibe, and is also the place to pick up a bottle of Italy’s finest vino. For a more romantic or intimate affair, then head down to the restaurant. Rustic wooden floors, pale stone walls and matching cream seats make for a cool, cavern-esque feeling (almost like being in a posh wine cellar), and when the lights are dipped the place glows. Plus there are nooks and crannies so you can feel you’ve got your privacy too.

Atmosphere: It’s no surprise this is a family-run establishment – Italian charm and hospitality envelops you as soon as you step over the threshold. The waiting staff are all lovelyand speak with a Mediterranean lilt, and will guide you through the menu thoroughly. Upstairs was more bustling when we visited, whereas down in the restaurant things were a little more sedate and intimate.


Menu Concept: The food is based on traditional Apulian cuisine, and there’s a staunch dedication to using products grown in Puglia or delivered daily from local markets. It’s obviously very important to the ethos of the owners that the ingredients can shine for themselves.


What We Ate: The whole meal at Li Veli was a bit of an adventure into this new cuisine, and we couldn’t have asked for a better gastronomical guide than Alfredo – the son of the wine-producing Falvo family who joint-own the establishment. Managing the place for a spell to make sure everything runs smoothly, he told us we couldn’t not try the ‘Frisella’ bread.A typical repast in his area, it is bread that has been baked twice and is molded into a round, bagel like shape. We ate it topped with the freshest chunks of vibrant red organic tomato, drizzled in extra virgin olive oil. The bread was lovely – it had a real satisfying crunch, was perfectly seasoned, and the juice of the tomatoes burst in our mouths. Home-made Focaccia was spongy-deliciousness specked with rosemary, and the burrata cheese…. Don’t leave here without trying it. A snowy white orb appeared, between the size of a tennis and golf ball. We cut into it, and here the only word that fits is ‘oozing’. How something can be so delicate in flavour and yet have such an incredible impact on the taste-buds astounds me.

Then it was on to the main courses, and I decided to be led by Alfredo – while secretly hoping he’d suggest pasta. Luckily, this was his recommendation, since of course it was home made orecchiette. Named because it resembles a small ear, the pieces of perfectly al-dente pasta were smothered in a ruby red tomato sauce, and pepped up with cacioricotta cheese and basil. This probably best summarised the meals at Li Veli – simple food, nourishing, healthy (it’s organic too), and just completely vibrant with flavour. When a humble pasta dish can be made to taste so incredible then you know you’re on to a winner. It’s also worth noting that my companions sea-bass with accompanying silky-smooth bean mash was a delight, and the tiramisu we finished on was rich, loaded with booze, and as good as you’d hope from a family run Italian.

Best of the Booze: Obviously here the tipples are just as important as the food, and boy were we satisfied by what we drank. The meal was started perfectly with a punchy and beautifully-bitternegroni (so hot right now), and then it was on to the wines – all from the Li Veli winery, naturally. The white we sampled was the Fiano. It was superb – fruity and yet complex, with additional layers of smokiness and definiteminerality from the coast. Then we moved onto the Passamante, which is the name of the forest of the area. This is translated in the bold, intense and cherry burst of the wine, which gave lingering hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. It was so good we went home with a bottle.

Overall: Looking up Italian proverbs about food, I think my favourite was probably Atavola non siinvecchia, which means‘At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.’ All I can say is that four hours in Li Veli flew by, because we were enveloped in warm hospitality, superb and yet rustic food, and incredible wine. It is obvious that everything about Li Veli is inspired by a love of the region it represents, and London is now a richer place for having this opportunity to indulge in this passion.

Li Veli Winery and Bistro


BOE Magazine


Fun in The Big Apple with Hampton Madison Square Garden #WeGoTogether

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Fun in The Big Apple with Hampton Madison Square Garden

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary two night stay at Hampton Inn Madison Square Garden in exchange for an honest review of my hotel experience.

As a Travelista and girl around town, I am always on the go. Since I began blogging almost five years ago, I feel that my life has come full circle. I first visited New York City in 2009 and stayed at the Hampton Madison Square Garden off of 31st Street and 6th Avenue at the suggestion of my then travel agent. I had no idea when I was approached to review the hotel during my recent stay for #BlogHer15 that this was the same hotel I visited almost six years ago. Talk about coincidence!

The hotel is still a quaint, updated gem not too far from Midtown and nestled between the hustle and bustle of Penn Station, MSG, and Herald Square. I enjoyed my stay back in 2009 and I had a nice time during my recent trip as well. Hampton has made a few changes—the lobby has been redesigned and the eating/gathering area is larger than I remember. The property is only about 8 years old, so it is still a shiny location amongst a mass of older buildings, but the new changes added an extra edge that I’m sure was welcomed.

Hampton by Hilton MSG lobby

The room I stayed in was a nice size (for New York City) with a Queen bed and a work station area that I loved. It also sported a bevy of power outlets and connections all over the room, so I was able to charge my various electronic devices without any issues. I wish other hotels would take note of the need for more outlets for power tech users like me.

Hampton by Hilton Madison Square

The bathroom was a sight for sore eyes, as it was a bigger size than others I’ve experienced in like-hotels in the area. That’s a winner!

Hampton by Hilton Bathroom

Now let’s talk location. The hotel is within a 15 minute walk to Times Square. And it is also within a few blocks of Herald Square and the iconic 34th Street Macy’s, Fashion Avenue/District, Madison Square Garden, and other notable locations. It is also near 5th Avenue and all of the upper echelon shops and haunts (including Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center) that is it known for. It is pretty much at the center of everything if you are looking to be close to many of the city’s jewels.

Hampton Inn MSG

What made my stay extra special was the staff. The VIP treatment I received was not only top notch, but fun and festive. When they weren’t indulging me in taking various pictures of me on property (per my request), they were offering me fresh baked cookies and other goodies afforded to all of the guest staying at Hampton MSG. When it came to giving me dining suggestions, or where to catch the train, I could always count on them to never lead my astray. It was like having my own personal assistants at my beck and call.

When you are traveling, you want to make sure your stay is as stress free is possible. New York City is The Big Apple, but the peeps at Hampton gave me small town personalized attention that I will remember. I would recommend this location to those traveling to The Big City who want to be close to everything.

Hampton by Hilton

Hampton By Hilton Breakfast

The only con I can point out is the elevators. During peak hours (check in and check out time), it can take awhile to for the elevator to get to you. I must note that during the last night of my stay, Hampton was booked full, so with all of the travelers coming and going, I am sure the elevator was being used heavily.

The Hampton by Hilton Madison Square Garden Area hotel is located at 116 W 31st St, New York, NY. You can get more information about this location by clicking here. It has a 4 out of 5 star rating and offers free hot breakfast each morning, a multi-lingual staff, modern rooms, and free high speed internet for all guests.

The Cubicle Chick