Down an escalator off Moore Street and a few steps into Moore Street Mall is Bolivian Restaurant.
Part of the facade, to the right of the door, is covered with a row of huge photos, of chips topped with beef and onions, and spicy pork soup.
Picturesque scenes, one of Bolivian mountains, another of a church, cover the upper half of the restaurant’s white and green walls.
Six tables and an open kitchen make up the tiny space. “I opened in March last year,” says Nelly Olgera, who runs the restaurant with the help of her sister and sister-in-law.
Olgera mainly cooks the food herself, sometimes falling back on family.
Behind the counter, Olgera ladles out sopa de maní. She delivers the big bowls of light yellow broth with specks of green to a table of two men chatting away, and another to a woman sitting quietly on her own.
The soup is a classic in Cochabamba and a favourite with Rafael Pericon, a forklift driver at one of the tables. “This is my third time at the restaurant,” he says.
“It’s easy to make,” says Olgera. Blended peanuts with pasta, potatoes, vegetables and chicken.
“When I serve it, I put parsley and potato sticks on top,” she says. The €6 soup also comes with soft white bread and a spicy tomato and chilli sauce.
The menu has drinks too. Like a cold glass of mocochinchi, water infused with dried peach and cinnamon, for €2.
The food menu changes weekly. On 17 February, customers could choose from pique macho, which has chunks of beef, fried potato and boiled egg, and lechón al horno, made up of roasted pork with plantain.
They could also opt for picante de pollo, a spicy chicken served with rice and salad, that isn’t that spicy but is flavourful despite there being no marinade.
“The chicken is just boiled like that,” says Olgera. It’s so tender as it crumbles off the bone.
Olgera recommends the pique macho to customers who like their food dry. She brings out an ample plate of bright red pork with rice, plantain, roast potatoes and salad.
“For the pork, I add garlic, black pepper and salt and cook it in the oven,” she says. “The plantain is cooked in the oven too.”
Olgera used to be a childminder before opening Bolivian Restaurant. She had come to study English in Dublin 10 years ago, leaving Cochababa where she worked as a nurse, she says.
She opened the restaurant as it seemed to her there wasn’t a Bolivian one around. “This is the first,” she says.
Bolivian Restaurant opens at noon every day except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The restaurant closes at 7pm.
Olgera works later of course. “I finish only around 8.30pm.”
She rushes in and out of the kitchen, ferrying first plates with pork and plantain, then beef with fried potato and a boiled egg. Regulars drop in for takeaways, drifting back out with white plastic bags of food.
All of Olgera’s portions are generous.
She makes a quick stop at each table to ask if her customers are satisfied before disappearing into the kitchen again.