Comfort food is the name of the game at Irish bar and restaurant Paddy Rice. Ellie Dyer and photographer Conor Wall meet the woman behind its new menu.

A former sous chef in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen at London’s Connaught Hotel, Susi Phipps is used to pressure. Catering to the demands of celebrities, including singer George Michael and Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, is a difficult task.

“It was very stressful, you would survive on about two hours sleep a night,” says the new general manager of Paddy Rice Irish Sports Bar and Restaurant on Sisowath Quay.

Since arriving at the Irish bar earlier this year, the Londoner is using her wealth of experience — which also includes a role as business partner at the Brixton-based Hope and Anchor — to reinvigorate Paddy Rice Sports Bar & Restaurant into “more of a gastropub”.

Though stalwarts such as cooked breakfast, steak and Guinness pie, and fish and chips remain, new additions are diversifying the extensive menu known for its hearty pub classics.

The Paddy’s burger with onion marmalade and a towering pile of jenga chips ($8) is a clear standout. Thanks to a hint of chilli, the lamb and beef patty packs serious punch. Phipps developed the recipe at The Connaught to please a certain customer.

“George Michael kept coming in with his boyfriend and always had a burger that wasn’t really tasting that great. So I said I wanted to change it. There are 12 ingredients just in the meat patty,” she says.

Phipps has also brought lighter options to the bar’s staples, which used to focus on a more masculine audience. Prawn and seabass fish cakes with a green bean and rocket salad ($7.50) are deliciously crisp, and the zesty salad lightens the dish. Basil and tomato bruschetta ($3) is also fresh and won’t weigh diners down.

In Irish tradition, Paddy’s doesn’t skimp on portions. “We like people to walk away very full,” says Phipps.

Although the gastropub concept is novel for Cambodia’s capital, Phipps is sure that good, honest food will draw in the hungry.

“There is no pub establishment in Phnom Penh that’s doing gastro food. But rather than going in like a bull in a china shop, we are introducing 10 to 15 new dishes at a time and seeing what works,” she says. “We are trying to please everyone and it seems to be working; everybody wants a bit of home comfort.”

Paddy Rice Irish Sports Bar and Restaurant, 213 Sisowath Quay. Tel: 023 990 321 or 017 773 102 or visit Open 24 hours.