A popular family-run Indian restaurant is set to expand and enhance its “ambient” character.

Café Masala in The Broadway, Thorpe Bay, wants to create a bar area in the flat directly above the premises.

While some restaurants have struggled recently, Café Masala seems to have bucked the trend by pulling in the crowds.

An application submitted to Southend Council planners proposes the construction of a new staircase from the ground floor restaurant as part of a “modernisation scheme”.

The revamp of the family-run restaurant, which opened in 1999, will free up space near the entrance to allow for more tables.

Owner Adnan Hussain said: “The lobby we have now is small so we thought we’ve got upstairs and rather than leave it empty we could use it for people waiting for takeaways or tables.

“People can have drink while they wait.

“You might have a few friends waiting for a table at 8pm and they can have a few drinks upstairs and we will call them when their table is ready. It will give us two or three extra table downstairs.”

Mr Hussain the restaurant’s lively social media presence has helped boost trade but he also credits growing numbers of local vegans who have welcomed meat free items on the menu, including Magna Vegan creamy mixed vegetables with coconut and Vegan Koria.

He added: “Our vegan menu is going well. Vegans in Southend are great. I run the vegan menu myself and I really connect with them, not just over food but their mindset.

“At a time when the country is very divided vegans aren’t like that. There is no racism or sexism and they are just really nice people.”

An application to Southend Council planners said: “This will be part of the proposed modernisation of the premises to further enhance the ambient character and dining experience of Cafe Masala.

“The additional tables will help cater for the demand which at present is restricted by the limited ground floor space available.”

The restaurant holds regular charity fundraisers with the next being on October 18 to raise funds to send a teacher out to Uganda.