As we descend to the basement of the Scotiabank Arena, the two men in front of me — dressed in sleek navy suits with Toronto Maple Leafs pinned to their lapels — are deep in conversation. It only ends when the elevator doors open and one man says to the other, “Well, it’s a miracle you guys pulled it off.” With that, the pair enter into the newly redone Air Canada Signature Club.
Following in their footsteps, I’m greeted by servers carrying trays of chilled Champagne. Once inside, it’s impossible to imagine anything was rushed or prepared in anything less than a meticulous fashion. Glistening marble walls are complemented by a walk-through wine cellar equipped with hidden marble decanting shelves. Custom Italian oak wood floors provide a warm, heritage ambiance and a private, wood-panelled dining room creates an even cozier atmosphere. There’s also an eye-catching rotation of Canadian art, installed as part of the lounge’s new emerging Canadian artist series. Above each painting, curved ceilings emit soft overhead light designed to mimic the cabin of a first-class aircraft.
“We wanted to provide a feeling of floating in the space,” says lead designer Matt Davis, who revamped the lounge alongside his Toronto-based firm DesignAgency. “The goal was to tastefully integrate the Air Canada brand.”
Known for their work designing luxury hotels and restaurants, including Toronto’s St. Regis Hotel and the award-winning Restaurant at Pearl Morrisette, DesignAgency has transformed the sporting lounge into a venue that looks like it came straight from the pages of the Michelin Guide. While the design is staggering and sophisticated, the cuisine is unfussy, but thoughtful — perfect for game nights. During the home opener launch party, members munched on canapés of roasted shishito peppers dusted with bonito flakes, tuna tataki and endive filled with buttery salmon tartare, which tastes as fresh and mild as cream cheese.
The rest of the menu is anchored by Harbour 60 and Pinnacle Catering’s USDA prime steak program to feature flawless steaks served alongside shrimp cocktail, parmesan truffle fries, mac and cheese and other American steakhouse classics. There’s also a selection of feature dishes developed in collaboration with chef David Hawksworth as part of Air Canada’s award-winning in-flight Signature Service. Among them, Hawksworth’s albacore tuna with herbed chia seeds and sablefish with mushroom dashii. This is the dish that shouldn’t be missed.
But while the lighting and menu may evoke memories of first-class aviation, touches of Canadiana provide a distinct sense of Toronto. Plush blue Maple Leaf-themed bar seating is accompanied by matching pillows and a larger-than-life hand-carved Toronto Maple Leafs ice sculpture. There’s also the view that the Air Canada Signature Club provides, which includes private stairs that ascend to a members-only, ice-adjacent seating area.
Back inside the lounge, rumours of another new Air Canada Signature Club opening in Vancouver swirl among members. But, for now, we raise our glasses to the newly finished Signature Club off the ice alongside our hopes for an excellent 2019 season on the ice.