BY STEPHANIE YOUNG
Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has long had a reputation as a notoriously dull place—a suburban checkpoint that must be endured on the way to more exciting destinations. But a recent spate of upgrades means you need no longer fear a delayed flight, drawn out stopover or the lengthy waits that can come with the holiday travel season. We’ve outlined some of the noteworthy new ways to pass the time at Canada’s busiest airport below. Know of any other fascinating corners or crevices? Leave your tips in the comments below!
FINE DINING ON THE GO
Seasoned travellers are well acquainted with the fast-food chains and cookie-cutter cafes that typify the eating options at most airports. But at Pearson there’s now no need to settle for economy-class fare: the transit hub recently teamed with distinguished Toronto chefs to upgrade its dining experience.
Mustachioed chef and Food Network personality Massimo Capra has spruced up Terminal 1 with Boccone. Offering the same quality as his downtown eateries Mistura and Sopra Upper Lounge, Capra’s menu consists of rustic Italian fare—and fine wines—with an array of sandwiches, salads and pizzas like the Val D’Aosta, a cheese pie complete with black truffle cream. (In a hurry? Boccone Pronto, also in Terminal 1, offers grab-n-go versions of Boccone staples.) The Italy by way of Toronto ethos is also reflected in Terminal 3, where chef Rocco Agostino of Pizzeria Libretto fame has set up Corso, a modern trattoria for lovers of fresh pasta and thin-crust pies.
If a juicy meat patty is more your style, head over to Nobel Burger Bar in Terminal 3, where you can design your own signature burger, or select from one of the gourmet options designed by chef Mark McEwan (you know, the man behind North 44, Bymark, One and Fabbrica).
And for some worldly flavours, visit Marathi in Terminal 1’s international departures area. Guests can inspect the overhead wooden lattices and sleek seating while enjoying twists on Indian street fare, like butter chicken poutine and slumdog chili, created by Amaya chef-owner Hemant Bhagwani.
Travelling in 2014? Be on the lookout for even more chef-inspired eateries opening in the future: Guy Rubino’s Japanese-influenced Acer; wine bar Vinifera, featuring selections from Master Sommelier John Szabo; Susur Lee’s Asian Kitchen; hearty yet healthy fare at Lynn Crawford’s The Hearth; globally influenced North American eats at Twist by Roger Mooking; and Caplansky’s Deli, boasting Jewish deli fare from Zane Caplansky.
GAZE AT MUCH MORE THAN AIRPLANES
Over the last decade or so, the walls and bustling halls of Pearson Airport have transformed into a celebration of Canadian art and culture. Partnerships with Toronto museums and galleries, including the ROM, Design Exchange and Contact Photography Festival, have allowed the airport to display everything from dinosaur skeletons to works by internationally renowned photographers.
Currently featured amongst the oft-changing exhibitions in Terminal 1 is a juried show featuring works in a variety of media on the theme of travel. Elsewhere in the terminal are the Canadian Mosaic of Metal—where 18 top metalsmiths display pieces inspired by Canada’s diverse places and spaces—and Moments from Canadian Photographic History, which showcases rare images and image-making technologies from the 19th to mid-20th centuries.
Several large-scale artworks are also on permanent display at Pearson: in 2000, artists from around the world were challenged to design a visual representation of Toronto as the “gateway to North American travel.” The winning eight submissions are placed throughout the airport. Lift your eyes to marvel at Jonathan Borofsky’s I Dreamed I Could Fly, an airport-appropriate installation featuring five vibrant figures soaring high above the bustle of Toronto travellers.
FOR FRAZZLED FLYERS
After exhausting the airport’s edible and artistic attractions, work off some travel stress at the new GoodLife Fitness facility on the arrivals level of Terminal 1. The club’s amenities include massage chairs, modern change rooms and a full assemblage of cardio equipment. Harried travellers are encouraged to check out the Fit Fix circuit station, which is designed to provide a full body workout in just 20 minutes. Open from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., the gym welcomes both GoodLife members and non-members (for a nominal fee). And there’s no need to hunt for your headband: workout gear, including shoes, is available for rent, and safe storage for your luggage is complimentary.