Pearson Goes Posh: the most luxurious new features at the airport Toronto loves to hate

Pearson Goes Posh: the most luxurious new features at the airport Toronto loves to hate

Things to do at Toronto Pearson Airport (clockwise from top left): renderings of the duty-free shopping area, Vinifera, the new GoodLife Fitness club and Marathi (Images: Nuance, GTO, GoodLife)

Is Pearson airport officially swanky? YYZ has a new fitness centre, a luxury shopping space in the works, and a handful of restaurants serving food worthy of an Ossington hotspot. In other words, Canada’s busiest airport is finally transitioning from an if-only-I-could-nap-on-these-benches airport into an interesting place to pass the hours between flights. It’s unclear whether credit should go to Toronto’s increasingly upscale tastes, the need to compete with Billy Bishop’s free lattes, or sheer numbers (35 million people passed through Pearson Airport in 2012 alone). Whatever the motivation, here are our favourite new things to do at Toronto Pearson Airport.

Where to Eat

The airport’s push to bring in more high-profile chefs has gained momentum in recent weeks. Modern restaurant Corso, which opened on November 8 in Terminal 3, was developed by Rocco Agostino, the man behind Pizzeria Libretto and Enoteca Sociale. (Not surprisingly, fresh pasta and pizza are the highlights of the menu.) Just one day later, Mark McEwan (Fabbrica, Bymark, North 44°) opened Nobel Burger Bar, a gourmet hamburger joint also in Terminal 3.

Last week, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority also announced that chefs Lynn Crawford, Susur Lee and Roger Mooking, and deli-owner Zane Caplansky will all open restaurants over the next two years. Several more eateries from local food luminaries are due to arrive much sooner, including tapas-centric Trillium from Origin’s Claudio Aprile (Terminal 3); Japanese restaurant Acer from Guy Rubino (Terminal 3, International Departures); and Indian street food restaurant Marathi from Amaya’s Hemant Bhagwani (Terminal 1).

With take-out options available at nearly every eatery, the practical ethos of the airport is still palpable. However, iPads for every seat, bars clad in brass and lofty bent-wood ceilings should help patrons forget that they’re behind a security gate.

Where to Drink

For alcohol—one of the few things that can make a flight delay tolerable—there’s Vinifera, an eye-catching new wine bar that’s already open in Terminal 1 and is coming soon to Terminal 3. Master sommelier John Szabo is behind the Canadian-centric wine list. Szabo also collaborated with brewer Brock Shepherd to create Apropos, a cocktail bar that opened in July in Terminal 1.

Where to Work Out

Last month, GoodLife Fitness opened a 10,000-square-foot gym in Terminal 1’s arrivals level, providing a the chance to counteract the general shiftlessness of an eight-hour flights. The company has done its utmost to eliminate excuses, offering rentals of work-out clothing and shoes, as well as free luggage storage. Day passes go for $15, and include access to cardio and weight training areas, showers and change rooms, towel service, and, of course, toiletries.

Where to Shop

The biggest coming attraction at Pearson is an expansion to the luxury duty-free area courtesy of The Nuance Group. Slated to open this year in Terminal 1, the 6,000-square-foot shopping zone will be divided into boutiques, like an upscale department store. Expect wallet-busting accessories and cosmetics from brands like Burberry, Coach, Michael Kors, Omega, Mont Blanc, Gucci and Ferragamo.