Tag Archives: shopping

Castillo & Co: Revisited

Around one year ago we visited Castillo & Co and said we would probably not visit again. However, around a month ago Muzeyde, the owner, commented on the blog admitting that there were some teething problems in the beginning and that we should give it a second try. We agreed.

IMG_20160531_173654Have things improved? We would say: Absolutely! In the past month we first tried the evening buffet and I really liked the salads selection. On the day we visited everything looked fresh, colourful, and tasty.

The fact that my least favourite dish (a curry pasta) was one of Michael’s favourites and his least favourite (a meaty pasta dish) was my favourite also shows that the food has improved.

Besides the salads there is also other warm food, such as ribs (my guilty pleasure) and other warm meat dishes. The dishes, although maybe not all labelled, are mostly labelled at least with what meat is in them.

Castillo & Co, Borgen Sønderborg

Then earlier this week we also tried out the a’ la carte menu. Michael tried the tenderloin, I tried the beef sandwich and my mother, who was visiting, tried the chicken burger. The plates were all empty by the end of the meal, and the food was enjoyed by all (including our young son tasting all our food). The prices are also very competitive when compared to the cafes in town and we like the value for money you get here.

Castillo & Co buffet restaurant Sønderborg

Finally, we sent my mother ‘incognito’ to try the brunch buffet. She liked the food and had very good service. In fact, the service has been great on all visits. We thought it could be because they knew who we were, but they also served an older non-Danish speaking woman with a smile and very friendly service. My mum particularly liked the ice-tea.


So our experience of Castillo & Co has changed significantly from our visit one year ago to today. To the question of if we would visit again, we would say: Very likely. The convenience and the buffets, especially, are excellent for meals out with children where you want to be sure they would like something on offer rather than you order one dish that they refuse. There are plenty of high chairs as well if you need one, although do be warned that they have no harnesses, so if you have an escape artist do take this into consideration.

Disclaimer: Castillo & Co offered us gift cards for food for three meals to try out the different selections on offer.

Cross-Border Shopping

Going across the border to shop has a long history along the Danish-German border here in Southern Denmark. These days where the Danish kroner is fixed to the Euro there is not a big currency difference for goods but different policies make some product have very different prices depending on which side of the border you step into a shop.

@andedk on Twitter: “2700 kr fattigere #Tyskland”

The way the Danish government tries to school the people in how they should consume is in large part done through taxes, which has the added bonus that money flows into the state coffers. Whether a tax is introduced to make money or to try and change behaviour is not always clear. However one thing is certain. If a thing people crave is cheaper south of the border you will get Danes driving for hours to save money.

Apart from regular VAT, where Denmark comes out at the top second in EU at 25%, Denmark has also special taxes on things like:

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Ice Cream
  • Chocolate
  • Candy
  • Fat
  • Energy used in air conditioner
  • Green tax on trucks
  • Getting rid of trash

In 2011 Danes spent 6.6 billion kroner in cross border shopping and 47% of all Danes had shopped abroad in that year. In 2011 the primary items for shopping were alcohol (38%) and soft drinks (31%). The new “fat tax” introduced at the end of 2011 has meant that most of the people driving across the border to shop now also shop for regular groceries (56%). In fact every 4th beer produced in Denmark is sold in Germany, primarily to Danes, which means 181 million liters of beers travel back and forth over the border every year.

Here’s a list and map of the biggest chains of border shops across the border in Germany.

What items you shop for when you go across the border and which stores do you go to?

Photo of a shopping trip by Ande.dk.

Cost of living in Denmark: Groceries

Where do you think it is cheapest to shop for groceries, London or Sonderborg?

We moved to Sonderborg from north west London and before we left London we went to our local supermarket, Sainsbury Kilburn, and got prices (without getting arrested) for a typical big shopping trip for us. We went to our new local supermarket in Sonderborg, Bilka, and found the same items. The items we put on the list are our most typical items for groceries shopping.

Iceland on Kilburn High Road closing

We colour coded the items so you can see what is cheapest where. Green means it’s cheaper in Sonderborg, red/yellow means it’s cheaper in London. Here is what we found:

When shopping in Denmark we have been quite shocked by the prices of beans, lentils and couscous. But looking at our result here pasta and rice are also vastly more expensive in Denmark. At the end of Perlegade we have found an ethnic supermarket that is slightly cheaper and with good quality products.

We did not buy yoghurt or cheese but it’s my experience that dairy products are cheaper in Denmark than UK. Likewise fish and some meat products (apart from minced) also seem cheaper in Denmark.

Unlike most countries Denmark has a flat VAT rate of 25% on everything. In UK (and most other countries) unprocessed food has a reduced or zero VAT rate. With the Danish “Fat Tax” and other behaviour adjusting taxes it is no wonder that Danes cross borders to shop. It is estimated that 12 billion kroner or the equivalent to 4% of what is spent in Danish shops takes place abroad.

Of course, this is not the most scientific of surveys! First of all, prices were noted on different dates some 3 months apart. The sample shopping also has more meat to vegetable than we would normally get and our selection is not that wide. Nevertheless, you can still get a good idea of shopping costs.

We have gone for the cheapest brand, usually the store brand where possible. If the weights were not the same we converted the weight/price. For comparison we used the exchange rate of October 27, 2011 with 1GBP = kr. 8.5571. The prices in London were collected on October 27, 2011 the prices in Denmark were collected mid-January. Here is a link to the spreadsheet with the data.

talented vegetables

My First Walkabout in the Shops

So far, on previous visits to Denmark, I have always been to Danish shops with Michael or someone form his family. However, as I have now moved to Denmark permanently I need to be able to brave them on my own. So I decided to have my first solo Danish shopping ‘expedition’ on my first full day in Denmark.

As we are currently staying with Michael’s parents in Toftlund, and as these are shops that I am familiar with, these are the shops I visited.

At most of the shops I entered I was immediately greeted with a friendly hello from one of the staff. Up to now I always thought that this was because the staff new the person I was with, so I was pleasantly surprised by it. Also, every single time, the person realised I did not understand Danish and switched to English for me. However, what I appreciated the most was that as soon as I said that I was fine they backed off! I really don’t appreciate staff hovering over me but appreciate knowing that they are there to help. This was a refreshing change to what I have experienced abroad.

Not having any money with me on the shopping trip I didn’t buy anything. However, I did find a couple of things that puzzled me or made me smile:

Cutlery in ImercoWhile I was browsing the local Imerco I came across this display: a shelf of cutlery laid over receipts. The receipts were all from the previous day, and on each receipt there was a very long list of items so it couldn’t have referred to the cutlery lying over it. Someone suggested it might be that the receipts are there as part of the shelf design – surely that cannot be right!

Update: I returned to the shop with Michael and he confirmed that the reason for the receipts is not as exciting as I might have though: they show the price of other items of cutlery within that cutlery range.

talented vegetablesEverything in Denmark is better – even the vegetables are talented! Or so it would seem from this spread at the supermarket – comedy tomatoes and karate carrots. Who would have known? I am guessing that this is a product aimed for parents trying to make their children eat vegetables. It put a smile on my face though!

All in all, however, I enjoyed my walkabout, also as I found a couple of products I was hoping I would. I am sure I won’t find all that I am used to, but I’m more optimistic now than I was before about either finding them or having friendly shopkeepers helping me out when out shopping alone.